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Houle: Your Kids Are Different and It's Okay!

20100319-david-houle-millennials-300x205.jpgFuturist David Houle has an interesting series of articles over on that explore the world of Millennials and the challenges of raising kids in the digital age.

The thing that I really like about Houle's column is that he takes a rational and, unlike so many other guru's, non-alarmist approach to the subject.

There are so many fear based stories out there about kids, digital technology and social media, so it's refreshing to see such a balanced approach on the subject.

The one area where I disagree slightly with Houle is his use of the term "digital natives." I'm sure from his perspective and based on his conversations with CEO's and other corporate types, that Millennials in the workplace, compared to their older colleagues, appear to be super digital, technology gifted whiz kids.

Coined by author Marc Prensky in 2001, the phrase has its usefulness in helping us adults grasp the major media shift we're experiencing and embrace young people's openness to it.

But two leading new-media thinkers – Sonia Livingstone of the London School of Economics and Henry Jenkins at the University of Southern California – both have concerns about the phrase becoming too definitive.

Sure kids can work an iPod or update their status on Facebook, but what about using technology in an authentic, useful context? But when it comes to using technology in a situated context to complete a task, navigating privacy settings and all around digital literacy, or using technology at school kids still come up a bit short

Over the last decade there has been lots of talk, in both the press and educational circles, about the technological prowess of digital natives. We've heard a lot about what's exciting in educational technology, but the reality is that teachers still see a lot of kids struggling to use technology.

In the end, what's important here, and I'm sure Mr. Houle would agree, is to take a balanced position when it comes to kids and technology. As a parent or teacher, don't be afraid to jump into the technology and social media pool and get your feet wet. Use this as an opportunity to spend time with your kids and  learn more about how they are using technology, mobile phones and social media in their lives.

Most importantly, don't panic! As a wise man once said, 'your kids are different...and it's okay!'

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