Don’t Be So Shocked: Helping Our Kids Become Digital Citizens

It’s hard for many of us to get our arms around the rapid changes in culture due to technology. It’s evident in our shock when we hear about kids’ use of social networking, cell phone sexting, and visits to inappropriate internet sites. Many of us wonder what’s up with all this strange new boundary pushing behavior that kids are doing. Perhaps another issue we should be exploring is why are we so surprised by all of this.

It’s been said that the main job of being a parent is to work ourselves out of a job. Growing up is about independence. It’s about emancipation from parents and family. Way back in the 1950s we can remember that teenagers used alcohol and sex to break away from the rules and expectations of appropriate living. When the 1960s came, drugs became more prominent, sex became more open and alcohol continued to thrive. 1970s, 1980s, 1990s all came and went with variations on these methods for kids to rebel and break away from the expectations of appropriate values. Now, add technology to the mix. How has that affected the ability of kids to rebel against common values? New technology comes along; the adults make rules about its usage and what happens? Kids see that this is now common value stuff, so to grow up they need to push the boundaries and live outside of these values.

Now, of course, this shocks us. We’re not used to technology being so sophisticated. The biggest leap in technology we can recall is the invention of microwave ovens. We say that this new progress is the evil behind the deviant behavior our kids are dabbling in. But are technology advancements really behind the increase in the shocking behaviors of today’s kids?

When we were young, teens tried to experiment with the boundaries of intimacy and sex. Sometimes they even told their friends or teammates about their exploits. Did kids have access to technology to do this sharing of their escapades even more privately? Many baby boomers recall spending long hours on the telephone, out of the sight and hearing range of their parents.

Okay, so technology has advanced and become more sophisticated in its ability to allow people (yes, adults and kids) to do what they have always done. But what about the things that are being done now that seem so foreign to our values. What about the aspects of sex that seem to have changed. Did a sexual revolution really begin in the ‘60s? Did it happen when one of our presidents redefined what it means to “have sex”? How do we know if things are really changing or if we’re just experiencing the current version, technology enhanced, of independence and emancipation through sexual boundary pushing?

What are the answers? What are we supposed to do as parents and educators? Perhaps the best we can do for now is to let go of some of our shock and awe at these seeming new behaviors. Shock just keeps us looking for someone or something to blame. We may find comfort in thinking these extreme behaviors are caused by something new in our environment. Again, while technology has certainly ENHANCED these opportunities, they are not really causing them. Kids have always been doing versions of these things (pushing boundaries, bullying, being secretive, etc.). No, we need to let go of our shock and realize that we bear some of the responsibility for these seemingly extreme behaviors.

We are partially responsible because we don’t know how to talk to our kids about these things. Actually, we may know how to TALK to them about it but we don’t know how to LISTEN. Changing cultures, advancements in technology, expanding definitions of values, these all require engaged conversations. We need to get past our shock and insecurity about the issues of today’s kids and bring ourselves into the lives of modern families. This means talking WITH our kids about about our values and expectations, and becoming familiar ourselves with the new enhancements technology brings to growing up. We need to become part of today’s culture if we are to prepare our children for healthy digital citizenship.


October 31, 2010. Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Procedures and Routines

“What are we doing today?”
“When’s lunch?”
“Where should I put this paper?”

Do your students ever ask these types of questions? Do these questions ever wear you down or cause you to feel annoyed? If they do, you’re not alone. Often teachers are frustrated with students’ repetitive questions regarding classroom procedures.

Students ask these types of questions when the classroom environment lacks consistency, predictability, and structure. Students ask these types of questions when classroom procedures and routines have not been established. Most students like knowing such things as where will I sit and what am I supposed to do when I enter the room, where will I find the materials and information I need to be independent and successful. This is difficult for some teachers to understand because they personally feel comfortable working in a less structured atmosphere. While some may function fine in this type of environment, it is essential to understand that this type of atmosphere causes many people to feel insecure and confused.

Because of this, it is imperative to create a more efficient classroom where students feel safe and secure and know what to do. An efficient classroom has procedures and routines that have been taught, modeled, and practiced until they have become second nature.

Here is a partial list of procedures that we believe should already be established in the first month of your classroom:
  • What to do when students enter the classroom at the beginning of the day or hour
  • Where and how do students turn in their work
  • What should students do after being absent
  • How should students ask questions
  • Where the materials are located that students might need
  • When are students allowed to move about the classroom
  • Student procedures for use of pencil sharpener or accessing the bathroom

Once these and other procedures are habits, the teacher is allowed more time for teaching and the students will have more time for learning.

October 2, 2010. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.