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Our kids might look and sound like ordinary children — they
might enjoy apple picking, playing board games and reading picture books, just
as you and I did as kids. But don’t be fooled by their play-dough-crusted
fingernails and chocolate-smeared cheeks. There’s nothing ordinary about this
newest generation of children.
In fact, these kids’ lives are drastically different than
any child ever in the history of the world.
These brand-new children are digital natives, meaning they were born into a world where flat
screens and Google are completely normal, expected even. Social media is as
pervasive and established as newspapers and cable TV, perhaps more so. The
only world they know is a digital world — always buzzing, always clicking,
Here are 10 sure
signs that you’re raising digital natives:
1. Their earliest sight words were “Netflix,”
“Play,” “ Pause” and “iPad.” They’ve also used the word “Facebook” in a sentence before the age of 4.
2. You find them using technology-based metaphors
to understand life.
“So you mean it’s like I have too
many applications open in my brain? And I need to close them to run my program
“Um, sure. If that helps illustrate
the concept of ‘focusing’ for you, then yes. Exactly.”
3. Their first understanding of the word “dead” or
“died” was in the context of an electronic device running out of batteries. Mom’s computer died. Dad’s phone is dead — better plug it in! Except when
someone or something really dies,
there’s no plug or battery pack.
4. Things that are “normal” to our digital natives:
touch screens, “apps” and downloading. Things that make no sense: phone cords,
pay phones and rewinding. (My 5-year-old son casually uses the word “hard
drive” as if he were saying “toaster oven.”)
5. Your toddler has been attracted to iPhones from
the moment his eyes focused, and he instinctively knew how to swipe, click,and
operate a device. Your older kid totally doesn’t need silly directions to play a video game … he just knows. (You think today’s teens can
out-tech you? Just wait until these newest kids take the reigns.)
6. They’ve FaceTimed from birth. (“It’s GRANDMA,
baby! Say hi to Grandma!”)
7. They ask to “press pause” on a book or playtime and refer to book chapters as “levels.”
8. Your top parenting concerns are:
“How much ‘screen time’ is too much?”
“How can I protect my child from the serious, life-damaging,
innocence-stealing consequences of being alone with a search engine?”
“Must … put … down … screen … and … play … with … my … kids.”
OUR PARENTS DID NOT HAVE SUCH
9. Your older kid’s multitasking skills are
basically non-human. In fact, some scientists are thinking that because of
neuroplasticity — the brain’s ability to change and reorganize based on our
experiences and environments — these newest kids’ brains are naturally adapting
to this frenetic digital environment. New York Magazine reported that digital natives have unique
skills “like [conducting] 34 conversations simultaneously across six different
media, or [paying] attention to switching between attentional targets in a way
that’s been considered impossible.”
had one of the following personal experiences documented, blogged about or
shared for the entire world to see: 1) A photo of them in the bathtub. 2) A
moment of embarrassment, anguish or tears. 3) Something involving their feces.
Our kids are inheriting a strange new world that’s already affecting them in a way that’s
difficult to control or understand. Of course every generation has advanced and
changed, but our technological advances are so rapid, so life-changing, it’s
impossible to know what life will be like in 20 years. And when our job as
parents is to prepare our kids for “the real world,” it’s unsettling to not
know what that real world will be.
But we can keep our eyes open. We can make the best choices
with what we know. We can embrace the positives that come from our digital
And we can eventually apologize for those bare-bum photos
floating around the Internet.