Three Ways the Internet has Changed Everything for Kids (and what to do about it)
I often hear experienced teachers complain about how students have changed over the years. Children who will spend hours locked into a video game can hardly pay attention for ten minutes to a classroom lesson. It seems that children of the digital age expect to be entertained in the classroom rather than taught. One teacher told me she felt she was becoming less and less of a teacher and more of a manager of electronic devices. And it’s not just in the classroom. Parents everywhere feel they are losing the battle to video games and the internet. Here are three ways the internet has changed things for kids and what to do about it:
- Kids don’t need adults to get information— There was a point in time where to learn something new (I know this is hard to imagine-but true) you had to talk to an experienced adult, read a book or take a class. Now, everyone’s an expert. All you have to do is watch a YouTube video or google it on the Internet.
- What to do about it: This doesn’t mean that our role as educators is obsolete. Our focus needs to be on how to help kids make sense of the information they get. We need to help them process and understand, which means we have to maintain a dialogue and teach kids to be curious and questioning. Developing critical thinking skills is more important than ever.
- Kids can indiscriminately share every thought and emotion with everyone they know–Rumors, gossip and putdowns have always been around but with the internet, everything travels much faster and farther. Friendships and reputations can be destroyed in the blink of an eye and with little forethought.
- What to do about it: Parents and educators must start young to teach kids compassion, empathy and the importance of thinking through consequences before taking action. This means we have a responsibility to be MORE involved in children’s lives, not less.
- Kids are more socially connected and more isolated than ever (and Covid has exacerbated the problem)– Children are becoming more and more dependent on social media to be… well- social. We are raising a generation that does not know basic social skills; how to talk rather than text, how to read and respond to body language and how to engage in productive and rewarding relationships.
- What to do about it: We all have a responsibility to create opportunities for kids to learn to be better at getting along with others. We have to be role models for this as well as make sure that we don’t rely on technology to teach skills. We must make sure we use videos and video games as a resource but not a means to replace the important relationships in life. Do we take time to teach or just show a video? Is every teaching activity modeled on a video game? Do we allow technology to interrupt important family occasions such as bedtime, dinner time, etc.? Is it our only means of entertainment? Do we make time for ourselves to nurture relationships or are we constantly checking our phone for updates? Can we plan time with family and friends where we enjoy each other without taking pictures to document everything on social media?
It seems to me that we can either throw up our hands and admit that electronics win or we can work with the system and help children realize the benefits of both electronics and real world communication. The greatest way adults can help kids of the digital age become life long learners and compassionate individuals who value authentic relationships is stay connected while providing a role model that is empathetic, curious and relational.
Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.
Feeling left out? Need help getting along with friends? Wyatt the Wonder Dog books weave important life skills into engaging story telling. Join Wyatt as he learns how to be the superhero in his group of friends by using cooperation and compromise.~MaryFrances Gonzalez MACCC-SLP