Home January 2012 Raising Kids in the Net Generation

Raising Kids in the Net Generation

“The key is to focus on the learner and reimagine the environments and modalities that will promote the beliefs and values of our tradition with mastery of 21st Century skills, so our children can lead successful lives as citizens of the Jewish community and our modern world.  This cannot wait to be the future of Jewish education.  It must be the now of Jewish education.”

So says Scott J. Goldberg, Ph.D., inaugural director of Yeshiva University’s Institute for University-School Partnership, associate professor at the Azrieli Graduate School and internationally recognized expert in Jewish and general education.  Goldberg, who spoke at Irvine-based Beth Jacob Congregation’s scholar-in-residence weekend in December,  discussed “Raising Kids in Generation Z: The Net Generation” – raising kids in today’s tech-savvy world when their abilities are so different from those from a generation or even a decade ago.

Q: Define Generation Z.

A: It is related to growing up as digital natives with Generation X parents who are digital immigrants.

Q: What scares you the most?

A: Technology has had a tremendously positive impact on education and relationships.  However, with all the good it provides there are also concerns.  This goes way beyond the issues of Internet safety and protecting our kids from inappropriate material or predators.  It’s about the potentially negative impact of having our children plugged in constantly.  Parents and teachers struggle because of a culture enmeshed with technology.

Parents need to understand how to talk about and value a relationship online or when it’s best to unplug.  Do our teachers know how to reach our students who are capable of high levels of multi-tasking and have access to information at their fingertips?  Who is showing them that an iPad can be used for more than watching movies and listening to music?  Do they know what gaming addiction looks like?  These are the dangers I worry about.  The conversation about protecting and teaching our children must shift to include the proper use and impact of technology as a whole.

As a father and an educator, what is the “good, bad and ugly” of raising kids in this high tech time? The Good: Information is accessible and allows for independent learning with the proper guidance.  No longer are our children dependent on one expert in the classroom who may have a myopic view to share.

The ease of access allows for visual and creative learners to explore, create and learn in ways they couldn’t in the past.  A creative child who was a visual learner might have become lost and labeled a poor student.  Now, teachers who know how to differentiate and use the tools of technology can build on the talents of all students and help them all truly shine.

Collaboration can be achieved in ways it could not in the past.  Relationships can remain strong through technology.  Social networks allow shy people to engage in relationships (although this could also be bad for some).

Concepts that delineate the good of tech today:
•    Learning opportunities
•    Educational development
•    Great creative outlets
•    Self-expression
•    Digital competence
•    Contact with friends and family
•    Social skills
•    Plain fun

Dangers of technology:
•    Addiction
•    Isolation from real relationships
•    Identity confusion by having an online persona
different than your real one

Other cons:
•    Anonymous communication
* Uninhibited behavior
* Short attention spans
* Judgmental audiences
* Privacy and security issues
* Cyber bullying
* Predators
Because of technology and other advances in society, parents need to learn to modify their parenting appropriately for the needs of the 21st century child.

Q: Do you have a list of suggestions of what parents should watch out for that might signal “danger ahead”?

A: See our parent guide at yuschoolpartnership.org. The FBI suggests visitng fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/parent-guide.
•    Your child spends large amounts of time on-line, especially at night.
•    You find pornography on your child’s computer.
•    Your child receives phone calls from men you don’t know or is making calls to numbers you don’t recognize.
•    Your child receives mail, gifts or packages from strangers.
•    Your child turns the computer monitor off or changes the screen when you come into the room.
•    Your child withdraws from the family.

I would go back to basics with technology in general.  Then explore what else has changed.  Is the child texting half the night and not doing homework?  Do kids spend hours on Facebook and stop hanging out with friends?  Lower grades, poor school performance and secretive behavior should also raise concerns.

Q: With all the variances of technology, do you think of it as more boon or bane?

A: With the right parenting and teaching there’s little risk of bane.

Q: What’s the saddest part of all this technology that you’re seeing happen today, and is there an age group that you think is hardest hit?

A: For me the saddest thing is the divide between what our kids know and value about technology and the parents’ and teachers’ level of knowledge and value of it.

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