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Helping Children Find Their Identity

Recreating Ford Mustang icons through Legos is not the usual method of creative expression for a fifteen year old. Perhaps the lack of  a constant digital stream of peer pressure is what allows that creativity to flourish?
Which is more desirable: empowerment or connection? In her new book The Parent App, journalist Lynn Schofield Clark suggests that we've actually been undermining technology's ability to create deeper and more meaningful relationships.
(I)n the networked society, focusing on the empowerment of our individual children may be causing us to miss the bigger picture. We need to understand not only what's new about technology and how technology changes our children's environments but also how our traditional ways of communicating with one another in our families may be generating more work for us all, and may need to be rethought in the digital era. (p.xiii)
Parents who seek to give their children every modern advantage, need to seriously consider the values and family dynamics they are developing. Yes, an unlimited family texting plan allows them to stay in contact but how many quality discussions happen under 120 characters with the lose of eye contact?

While parents should not become controlling or domineering of their children, they must know what their children are doing online. In fact, parents have a responsibility to teach and train their children how to navigate a changing and complex digital world; though at times this may resemble the blind leading the blind.

In chapter 4, Clark explores the way teens perceive the integration of digital media into their lives. Where adults often compartmentalize their tools and interactions, children see a seamless thread of connection. Their online image is just as real and dynamic as their analog presentations. In the teenagers search for personal identity, they will explore both sides of their social network; digital and analog.
To exist in digital space is to exist in peer culture, especially for teens, and the role of parents is both to understand and to act as sympathetic guides as their children navigate this environment as it expands into digital space. (p.97)
Far from becoming a point of contention or being banned from use, technology has become an intricate part of raising the next generation. Parents should embrace their role and work through the issues that digital connections provide.

My two teens do not own cell phones, have email addresses or mainstream social media accounts (unless you count Webkinz). Their time in front of screens is limited. I know this will be changing over the next several years, but not at the loss of family communication. For us, the ability to have an intelligent, provocative conversation is more important than how fast your thumbs can type or how many digital friends you have.

And those are the values each family will need to continually reevaluate. How much freedom and empowerment does each child need? What are we giving up or keeping from our children so that they can achieve a certain perception of success?

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