Parenting in the digital age
Take these 3 fairytale archetypes
Mowgli from the Jungle Book. Raised by wolves and is as adventurous as he is rebellious but also painfully naive, finding himself on many occassions to be the pawn of ill intentioned villains.
Elsa from Frozen. Cut off from reality through her self imposed exile which is designed to protect those she cared for but eventually resulted in years of loneliness, bitterness, misery and grief.
Pick any Disney Prince of the brave, loyal and incredibly handsome variety.They are given everything in life which leaves them with a lot of time on their hands to save lives, rescue girls from towers, pick up slippers, and they known for generally being perfect in all ways.
Apply these archetypes to how we are raising our kids
In the digital age that we live in today, these 3 fairytale archetypes overlay perfectly onto the 3 types of children we are raising. Alexandra Samuel, the well respected digital strategist, conducted some very compelling research on how our parenting style enables, limits or provides mentorship to children who respectively become orphans, exiles or heirs to the digital throne.
It has become quite commonplace to hear stories about Digital Orphans. They are the feral children of the internet who are unrestricted in their digital lives and left to fend for themselves with no guidance. Like Mowgli, they can unknowingly become the pawns of the dark side of digital – the stuff that makes headline news and causes parents to shudder.
The Exiles have been banished to the analog world that their parents grew up in and if they are especially good, they may get a snippet of limited screen time. This deprivation, like Elsa’s exile can turn into living with fear of the power of the internet without taking into account that digital skills are essential for being a productive adult in a world that is moving quickly towards a technology led, 4th industrial revolution.
Then we have the Heirs, the royalty of the digital age, who are given the best that digital has to offer. They have the guidance of their teachers and parents and are given the skills and knowledge to use digital tools along with appropriate behavioural guidelines for them.
The choices we make in a world that we are not natives to
Making these choices of what, how much and when to give digital access to our children is especially daunting because for most of us, these tools did not exist when we were growing up. Two TV channels was the extent of the digital variety in my village and even then, programming was not 24/7, so going outside to play with the neighbourhood kids was an inevitable part of the daily routine. The onus is on parents to sufficiently upskill themselves to a level where they are confident in making the decision to raise a well adjusted child who is equipped to succeed in the digital world.
Impact on our children’s future
Personal preferences aside, being an heir just seems a lot better than being an orphan or an exile. The orphans are nobody’s child and everybody’s child in the digital realm which poses the fear of them going down the wrong path and picking up bad habits like trolling and phishing, or spending too much time in the digital world and not developing adequate interpersonal skills that will serve them in the offline world. The polar opposite is the exile who, when they finally get what they have been deprived of, may launch themselves so heavily into it, and could suffer worse fates than the orphans if addiction comes into play. Conversely, Exiles may carry on in their parent’s footsteps and rub against the grain of society which may be a good or a bad thing – but that’s a debate for another day. The digital heirs are being set up for success in the digital age. The knowledge and skill to create professional opportunities and to shape the future is being given to them on a silver platter. Not to say that all of these outcomes are certainties, but I’d rather steer chance in the direction of what is most likely to produce a positive outcome.
So what kind of child do you want to raise?
Some orphans get lucky and their fate turns around. Some exiles are welcomed back to the kingdom, but the heirs?, they’ve had it good from the start and Disney will tell you, they always live happily ever after. So why not set your little ones on the right path from the start?
Limiter parents raising Exiles:
Consider these guidelines… to strike that balance between digital literacy and independence from technology. You may also find these apps featured in Best apps for toddlers and their wranglers article to create real life teachable moments by merging the real world and the digital world together.
I’d love to hear what type of parent you are and how you think that approach works for your family.
Until then, see you in the digital streets!
…Ciao for now!