On May 14th, Jim Stratton, Imanni Burg, Mikey McKillip and Chelsea Woods co-hosted a parent coffee in the multipurpose room to discuss the challenges and benefits of raising children in a world of ubiquitous technology. We began with a brief introduction of four general topics (see the slideshow below) and then held small group discussions so we could share our experiences.
We’ve put together a short parent survey at www.aas.ru/ParentTech. Whether or not you came to the May 14 parent session, please take the survey to help us plan future parent workshops. Thank you very much for your interest.
May 14: Raising Children in a World of Ubiquitous Technology presentation
Participants had children in all three divisions of the school, and the level of love, commitment, and concern for our children was evident. Often the initial focus was on what we are worried about, but our discussions raised ideas about different ways of thinking about what our children are doing, and strategies for supporting their healthy development. Here are some of the key concerns and related ideas:
Our children are online too much and are unable or unwilling to disconnect.
- We can help them find balance by modeling balance and planning family activities
- We can look for ways to share their connected experiences. Ask them to share their favorite sites, games, shows, or social media. When they were younger we joined their imaginary tea parties or we played with barbies and lego: the toys have changed, but they are still using their imagination, discovering, problem solving, and creating.
- This isn’t always a bad thing: being connected with friends and information is important.
- They are creating as well as consuming content, and they are evaluating content and getting feedback: these can be excellent for personal and academic development.
Our children are doing most of their learning in busy, noisy, environments (with music, around friends, in between online socializing and posting), but their exams will be handwritten in silent rooms.
- It is important that our children are able to write quickly, copiously, and clearly by hand.
- It is important that our children be able to concentrate in a distraction free environment.
- The exams are a test of learning, and if our children learn best socially and collaboratively, that learning will be reflected in their exam results.
- In the 21st century, people need to learn continuously on the job in order to keep up with a rapidly changing world, and that learning is usually social, collaborative, and partially online. We need to avoid preparing children for the test without preparing them for their professional lives.
Our children are seeing more than we saw, sometimes very graphically and interactively, and we are concerned about how this will affect their world view and relationships.
- Setting rules and expectations helps to a point, and beyond that we can help our children develop decision making skills and a personal understanding of how their media consumption affects them (this is not only related to online media consumption, but also the books they read and where they spend their time).
- It is important to have open communication with our children so that they know that they can always come to us when they need help.
Our children don’t have enough quiet time when nothing is happening.
- They live in a world of constant action.
- Some schools are introducing meditation or mindfulness, and this is also something we can explore at home (here is a list of resources for reading more about this).
- Most children report experiencing anxiety and trouble sleeping. We can support them by sharing relaxation techniques and helping to ease their anxiety.
We worry that our children are spending too much time on video games
- While it is true that there is a great deal of research about addiction to gaming and violent games creating violent behaviors, there is also research on the benefits of gaming. (Here is a draft paper which includes ideas and references on the potential benefits of gaming in education.)
- Violent behaviors have to do with challenges in dealing with emotions and relationships, and often occur when people experience a high level of frustration and feel powerless. We can support our children by practicing and modeling healthy strategies for collaboration and problem solving.
- Violent behaviors are often associated with a desire for revenge. Teaching our children that revenge perpetuates a never ending cycle of hurting, and that forgiveness can end that cycle, can help them find more peaceful solutions to conflict. Often the media portrays forgiveness as a sign of weakness and revenge or retaliation as a sign of strength. That portrayal contributes to children’s perceived need to use violence in their interactions.
- Gaming can involve collaboration, leadership, problem solving, creativity, and managing complexity, all of which are highly relevant skills in the 21st Century.
- It can be useful to contrast violent games with violent books, movies, fairy tales, and TV series. While in games our children are actors and creators, for the others they are [hopefully thoughtful] consumers. We can talk about content with our children, set guidelines, and create a family climate where it is safe to talk about our experiences so that our children are not isolated.
- Did you ever get obsessed with a project, so that you would stay up late, wake up early, or think about it all the time? A painting, a design, a puzzle, a book, a sport, a gardening project, something for work, a friendship? This is common in humans and is a sign of engagement, creativity, and passion. While it is important to help our children find balance, they will understand our pressure for balance more clearly if we can show them that we recognize their experience.
- The Middle School Knowledge Bowl team that won first place at the CEESA tournament this year was made up of three boys who currently play or previously played Minecraft.