Digital Natives and Parenting

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Mary Beth Hertz speak to our class this past week on the topic of technology in school.  As she brought forth her insight and knowledge on the topic, I was constantly looking up terms for which she was using, such as FOMO, digital natives, and COPPA.  I also did a little more digging on some of the experts she had mentioned, such as danah boyd, Manoush Zamarodi, and Alexandra Samuel. Side note, I found some satisfaction in noticing that these digital media experts are females!

Moving on, I was intrigued specifically by Alexandra Samuel’s research on the topic of digital natives.  It made me think about how much I have been involved with the recent usage of social media with my eldest (who is 11) and how I might change how these interactions going forward.  I also enjoyed reading through the sample iPhone contracts that were shared as well as they gave me some ideas of things to discuss with my daughter with regards to phone usage.  I’m not sure I’ll go as far as implementing a contract, but the contents of the contract are good topics to address. 

There were two things that Mary Beth said that made me think more critically about social media and how I perceive it.  The first quote was:

It is possible and important to teach kids self-regulation when using technology and how to reflect on their behaviours.  However, this may or may not change things.

Mary Beth Hertz

I agree that it’s important to bring awareness to their routines, reliance, and behaviours with their devices and technology.  Heck, I need to do that with myself as I tend to think that I’m not dependent on it.  However, every time I leave the house in the morning, I often have to go back to grab my phone.  I have created a communication base for which my daughter can easily contact me, regardless of emergencies, for which there have been none.  She calls to ask if she can have a certain snack, if she can have a friend over, ask what the plans are for the evening, ask what we are having for supper. Does she need an immediate answer to any of these things?  NO!  But I have created such easy access to communicate with me that it has become routine for both of us.  I feel like I’m needed and she feels safe knowing she can have my attention almost immediately. 

What might happen if I change my availability by phone? What are some ways in which I can be less reliant on my device and be present at work?

Second quote from Mary Beth that resonated with me was:

We need to understand technology and how/why kids use it. We also need to validate their reasons and not always judge them.

Mary Beth Hertz

This statement came within our discussion about the Bored and Brilliant Challenge created by Manoush Zomoradi. I watched her Ted Talk on this for which she brings up the perspective on our youth and states that “if you’ve never known life without connectivity, you may never have experienced boredom.” Wow! That is exactly what we are experiencing with my daughter. She has grown up to a witness of our interactions with technology, specifically our devices, and is mimicking those behaviours. However, when we see her on her phone more than what we are comfortable with, we are instantly all over her it. We need to start to be models for phone usage.

We also need to have a conversation about why and how we use our phones. I feel that if she knew why I was on my phone updating our family calendar while sitting down after supper, she might have a better understanding and acceptance of my phone usage in that moment. Likewise, I would like to know why she is on her phone at times and perhaps understand her purpose for further acceptance and respect. We are quick to judge others about phone usage but need to take a step back, as expressed in the Bored and Brilliant Challenge, and evaluate ourselves before we do others.

Would you be willing to take up some of the challenges identified in Bored and Brillant study? If no, why not? If so, which ones would you find the easiest or the most difficult?

Back Samuel’s research. She did a study for which she took data from more than 10,000 North American parents with regards to kids and their screen did.  In her article Parents: Reject Technology Shame: The advantages of helping kids learn to navigate the digital world, rather than shielding them from it, she identifies that there are three groups of parents based on how they limit their or guide their kids’ screen time as well as their attitude towards technology.  These are related to the concept of digital natives:

CAUSE – Parents: Digital Limiters

  • Raise their kids offline
  • Prefer to keep their kids away from the Internet
  • Often strictly limit screen time

EFFECT – Kids: Digital Exiles

  • Kept out of the digital world for as long as possible

CAUSE – Parents: Digital Enablers

  • Trust their kids online
  • Respect kids’ ability to make their own choices online
  • Take cues from how other families use technology

EFFECT – Kids: Digital Orphans

  • Explore online world without parents to guide them

CAUSE – Parents: Digital Mentors

  • Guide their kids online
  • Enjoy spending time online with their kids
  • Cultivate their kids’ digital skills
  • Foster online learning

EFFECT – Kids: Digital Heirs

  • Inherit their parents’ online know-how and engagement

If you have kids, what category of digital parenting do you see yourself? If you’re not at old as me, what category of digital natives do you see yourself as? Are you surprised by this? Why or why not?

6 thoughts on “Digital Natives and Parenting

  1. Daina,

    Really informative post! I would be interested in taking up the Bored and Brilliant Challenge, as I think I depend on my phone way more than I realize. I would be interested in finding out which “day” would be the most challenging for me. If I had to guess, the deleting of your most used app would most likely be a tough one for myself and a lot of other people.

    I don’t have children, but I am hoping I am seen as more of a Digital Mentor. To be completely honest, this sounds quite daunting! I sometimes find myself being judgemental of people using their phones during certain times without having any idea of their purpose, which in hindsight, isn’t fair of me. If I am going to become a parent who is a willing mentor that is able to cultivate my children’s digital skills through conversations and engaging in online activities together, I need to re-evaluate my own beliefs regarding technology and my own use of social media/technology. Being a parent (I would imagine) is challenging and technology use is another facet to consider when raising kids. I don’t know how parents do it today, but I appreciate how engaged and open minded you are when it comes to your own habits and how they impact your family! Thank you for sharing!


  2. Great post! I thought the last part about how parents choose to regulate digital media with their kids was interesting. I have three of my own and its coming to a point in time where our oldest is going to want to be on SM. I have probably overthought this at point. I think there is a fine line that we have to walk, as parents, but we need to be educators for our kids as well. Teaching them about their responsibilities with tech as well as the dangers.


  3. I also started to think about my own policies with my children (more so in the future than now, because they are only 3 and 1!). Just yesterday, I saw a friend post on Facebook that she always took her teenagers’ phones away at 9PM and returned them when they went to school. I really like this idea. Not only does it take that distraction away, but have you ever heard of the study done with plants and WIFI signals?
    Quick and interesting read if you are curious!


  4. Pingback: An evening with Mary Beth Hertz – CATHERINE READY

  5. Excellent, comprehensive post!

    Btw, Danah spells her name with only lower case (danah boyd). And, another very well known expert on digital spaces is Sherry Turkle (we discussed her earlier in class) – you’d probably want to explore her work more as well.

    You picked up on two really great quotes from the class that may have flown by for others. I think this certainly shows that you took up the topic as someone ready to be challenged. I appreciate this. The first quote on self-regulation also resonated for me as it’s a glaring reality that is not addressed very well, and certainly not modelled well for adults.

    Keep up the great work!


  6. Really enjoyed your thoughtful post. I definitely can relate to the communication base with my kids and wife and the ease and comfort that that creates. The challenge image you added was also one that I think I could do quite easily but I don’t think my kids could haha. Thanks.


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