We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: your kids are digital natives. You have begrudgingly become digital parents in the process. And there’s your challenge. The fact that in this area, you are one step behind your children. Your kids are more expertise, savviness and general knowledge about their smart devices and the internet than you do and you find yourself playing catch up.
What’s a Digital Native?
What’s a digital native? Let’s refresh.
A digital native is someone who was born right after the proliferation of smart technology. You would probably associate this definition to Generation Z—the kids who have been born into the “iPhone” era. But don’t be so quick in that assumption. A digital native could belong to any generation, as long as they lived through a big digital breakthrough (the internet, the laptop, the tablet and so forth). Because they have grown into a world where these technologies were already the norm, they have a great understanding of how they work. They are more familiar with it than the people who experienced the advent of those technologies.
Therefore, by this definition, you child is a digital native. They are way more familiar with the smartphones, tablets, social media and the internet than you will ever be. This is because when they were born, these things already exist. Hence, they never had to go through the process of learning and unlearning. They grew up at a time where these things existed as a reality and were already widespread.
What’s a Digital Immigrant?
What’s a digital immigrant, then? Let’s refresh.
A digital immigrant is someone who has been born before the new technologies became widespread. This means that they lived through the invention of laptops, smartphones, tablets, or even the internet. Therefore, digital immigrants are people who have not been exposed to these technologies from an early age.
Because they haven’t been born into a time when the inventions were already a reality, they have to go through an adoption period and are thus not as proficient with its use as the natives. They are not as quick in picking up and staying up to date with the new technologies either.
For example, when Skype was first invented, many digital immigrants were not as quick to adapt to it and much rather preferred their traditional ways of making phone calls. Perhaps they blamed the poor connectivity or the lags. Whatever their reasons were, they were comfortable with what they already knew and thus were not too keen on switching to a new form of communication.
It’s why you won’t find many digital immigrants using Snapchat or Instagram or any other new social media fads that the kids go through.
Where Does Digital Parenting Come in?
So here’s the dilemma: you, the parents are digital immigrants and your children are the digital natives. Your understanding of social media or the internet culture will always be a step behind your children. You wouldn’t understand the language, the norms and values, the memes, the different etiquettes and the ways to communicate on the internet like your children would. In fact, your children don’t even have to think about these things. They just know how to behave in what digital platform.
You know how you assume certain roles in different settings? Like how you behave differently inside your home? Then you assume a completely different behavior when you sit in a restaurant? Or when you go to work? Or when you have a formal dinner at a fancy restaurant? Or when you’re simply stopping by In N Out for a burger?
You don’t even know how you make the switch, but you just do. You play a different “role” in all these different social settings.
The internet is no different. Your children know when they must switch to a different role. They know what behaviors are to be adopted in what settings. They know what “language” is to be spoken in what platform.
And there’s the challenge. Parenting in a foreign world. Understanding a foreign culture and then taking charge in it. It is harder and simpler at the same time.