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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

6 Ways to be a Digital Mentor to Your Kids | JSTOR Daily

In her biweekly column “The Digital Voyage,” 
Alexandra Samuel investigates the key psychological,
 social, and practical challenges of migrating to an online world.
"What’s involved in being a digital mentor?" notes Alexandra Samuel, technology writer, researcher and speaker. 

Photo: iStock

People have been asking me various version of this question in the two weeks since my last column addressed the overblown anxiety about teens and smartphones.  As I noted in that piece, my own research over the past several years has indicated that kids are most successful in navigating the complicated online world when they’ve had the benefit of parental guidance. Rather than focusing on how we can limit our kids’ use of tech, or conversely, enabling them to use when- and however they’d like, we need to be digital mentors who help our kids learn not just the technical but human skills that lead to meaningful online interactions and experiences.

Yet it’s not always obvious how we can mentor our kids online. A digital divide persists, not only between those families who have connectivity and those whose kids have to rely on school or libraries to get online, but in the level of resources families can commit to their kids’ online education. It’s one thing to be a mentor parent if you’ve got cash for kid laptops and weekly tech classes; it’s more challenging if you’re trying to guide your kids through the online world at the end of a double shift, without access to a computer of your own.

Over the course of several years of research on how parents manage their kids’ use of tech, however, I have seen parents embrace mentor strategies that, in many cases, involve no directly financial cost. Even more important, not every mentor is a tech expert. Digital mentorship is a strategy that’s available to any parent. Here’s what’s involved.

1. Be a Role Model 
My last story raised the question of whether today’s kids are suffering less from their own use of tech than from their parents’ online habits. I well know how incredibly hard it is to resist checking your phone when you hear that telltale ping of an email arriving, even if you’re in the middle of a conversation with your kid. (That’s yet another reason it’s smart to turn off push notifications, so it’s up to you to check email when it’s convenient, instead of getting interrupted as it arrives.)

The single most important way we can teach our kids to make thoughtful, moderate use of technology is by modelling that kind of usage ourselves. Showing our kids that we organize our tech usage around our personal and professional priorities—instead of getting caught up and keeping up—is crucial if we want them to have an empowered relationship to the digital world, instead of feeling like they have to join every social network their friends use, or respond to every text the second it appears.
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Source: JSTOR Daily 


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