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10 Signs You’re Raising a Digital Native

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.

RELATED: Don’t Tell Me I Ruined My Child

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, always blinking.

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 faster?”

“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.”


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.”

10. They’ve 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.

RELATED: Why I Gave My Kid More Screen Time

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 connectedness.

And we can eventually apologize for those bare-bum photos floating around the Internet.

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