When my father took me to buy an Apple //e, I had no idea it would change my life. In fact, I imagined it would ruin it. My father, driven inexplicably to the Computer Solutions store, bought me technology that he would never use, never truly understand…but he dreamed I might.
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I didn’t feel that until my son played on his Xbox, and I found myself afflicted with only a mild curiosity. What would it be like to fight zombies, play with people around the world, people I would never meet face to face? What would it be like to learn how to play an infinite variety of games by watching endless hours of YouTube videos? What would it be like to begin my homework on one device, switch to another, and another, mixing-n-matching (a.k.a. app-smashing), remixing information and creations?
…research shows that vilifying the devices’ place in family life may be misguided…My data revealed that parents could be roughly divided into three groups based on how they limit or guide their kids’ screen time, each group with its own distinct attitude towards technology. The first group is the digital enablers, whose kids have plenty of screen time and access to devices…Digital limiters, by contrast, focus on minimizing their kids’ use of technology…Digital mentors instead take an active role in guiding their kids onto the Internet.
Source: Parents Reject Technology Shame, The Atlantic
My father had been a digital enabler, making those trips to Radio Shack an exciting adventure that left me wondering, “What else is out there that I could play with?” When my son and I began playing games online together–via computer, since gaming consoles did not find their way into my home until much later–I remembered showing him how to play, how to be a digital citizen…that is, to abide by the rules of the game (Enemy Territory).
On the other hand, a work colleague made sure her son had only limited access to technology, refusing him a gaming console, a computer except for occasional research. She pushed him into outdoor experiences. A digital limiter, she only loosened her hold once, allowing her son to play Halo while at a friend’s house…”He had nightmares!” she exclaimed upon his return, clinging to her.
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As parents, we are at our best when we introduce our children to ideas, technologies that enable them to move beyond our provincial perspectives, our unfounded fears, our conservative constitution…it is only then that we can connect with our children, to touch a future we can see but not quite understand.
Perhaps, we can also hope they will ease us into that future, as we helped them into their’s.
Mentors, in fact, may be the parents who are most successful in preparing their kids for a world filled with screens, working actively to shape their kids’ online skills and experiences…mentors are more likely than limiters to talk with their kids about how to use technology or the Internet responsibly—something that half of mentors do at least once a week, compared to just 20 percent of limiters…They’re also the most likely to connect with their kids through technology, rather than in spite of it: 58 percent of mentors play video games with their kids every week, compared to 42 percent of enablers and 30 percent of limiters. Source: Parents Reject Technology Shame, The Atlantic