Technology has changed and enhanced our lives and culture in so many positive ways. But with all things, there is a downside.
Dominating the news with things like the Russian hacking scandal, cyber bullying and sexual predators finding kids online, it’s easy to start to question the role of digital channels in our lives and more specifically, the lives of our children.
For me, it’s critical to align my professional interests with my personal concerns. As a leader of a digital agency, I believe in the power of technology to make our world a better place. As a parent, I’m concerned about the dangers my kids may encounter online.
To be fair, my girls are only five so I haven’t dealt with the reality of kids in school and on devices – yet. But, from what I observe, a better job needs be done educating children about the pitfalls and dangers of social media and digital communication. Digital agencies are stewards of a big ecosystem that we all contribute to, and though the foul play will be way outside of the work we do, we can still take action to protect children and help parents, teachers and others do so as well.
As parents, we need to be thoughtful and purposeful about setting boundaries and staying involved with our kids to ensure they’re practicing good digital habits.
I believe the responsibility of keeping children safe from digital harm starts at home. More specifically, what kind of behavior are parents modeling when it comes to device use? Kids are little sponges, and they quickly pick up how adults use and prioritize what’s happening on their devices. This lays the foundation for how kids will interact with people and their devices later in life. As parents, we need to be thoughtful and purposeful about setting boundaries and staying involved with our kids to ensure they’re practicing good digital habits.
That said, I recognize that we didn’t grow up with the technology that is available to kids today. As parents, we need more than intuition to stay ahead of the dangers out there. We need education and support.
Organizations like the Digital Futures Initiative can help immensely. The core of their program is providing free education (typically taught by counselors, police officers or other relevant parties in the school system) to help teach kids, parents and schools about living healthy digital lifestyles, being aware of and avoiding risk, and giving some guidance on how we deal with a lot of the challenges of fast digital evolution. We need this because no generation has faced this before.
“Schools recognize the need for digital citizenship and safety curriculum. The problem stems from the fact that the people who teach know less about digital than the students, not for any other reason than it is outside of their professional scope,” said Jason Breed, President of DFI. “We solve this problem by creating and distributing a series of ready-to-use lessons developed by digital and education professionals that students enjoy and learn from. Instructors gain needed expertise and are able to focus on teaching, not curating and testing content.”
“Schools recognize the need for digital citizenship and safety curriculum. The problem stems from the fact that the people who teach know less about digital than the students, not for any other reason than it is outside of their professional scope,” said Jason Breed, President of DFI.
I’m also encouraged because DFI understands the need to account for the life skills that digital de-couples from our innate abilities to communicate, understand and empathize with others. These “people skills” that we took for granted are now lacking because we don’t get as much practice with them growing up. That is why, in addition to teaching new digital skills of responsible use, accountability and safety online, DFI incorporates emotional intelligence as a foundation in all of the lessons.
At the end of the day, I’m inspired to carry on because I know that together, as a community, we can create an environment that does more good than harm, that enables our children to have new opportunities and that connects people together in ways that have never before been possible.