Digital Life: How Digital Media Impacts Our Kids
Trish Fischer in Digital Life, digital media, digital media in schools, digitally rewired kids, digtal media impact, tfw co, tfwco, trish fischer, wired kids digital life-this photo shows a young boy and girl at home using a tablet computerAs an inbound marketing professional, I'd be remiss not to consider the impact our increasingly wired world is having on our daily lives, particularly our kids and our future workforce. I make a living based on the fact that our culture is, with each passing year, more digitally literate and self-sufficient. Is there a moral or ethical dimension that needs to be considered?

I did a Google search on this subject and uncovered a gem of a New York Times article titled Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction by Matt Richtel. It is a terrific piece that hits close to home. We have two sons, one in high school and one in middle school. Both are good students. They are nice kids who have no trouble engaging in conversations with adults. Despite these admirable qualities, the digital divide is a constant challenge to all adults our kids encounter (including us). Many of us simply don’t get what is happening to the firm ground on which learning and communication was basd for the majority of our lives. We try to understand what’s going on with our kids, but our understanding falls short because – unlike them – we are not fully digitally rewired. My understanding of the situation was expanded greatly by viewing this video on YouTube:

How Digital Media Impacts Our 'Secret Powers of Time'

The above video is a 10-minute presentation by renowned psychologist Philip Zimbardo that conveys his concept of “The Secret Powers of Time.” He shows how our individual perspectives of time affect our work, health and well-being. This is truly amazing stuff that is relevant to each and every one of us in our lives at home, school, office and in the community.

At the 5:40 mark in the video Zimbardo addresses the challenge of teaching digitally rewired kids. Here is a condensed paraphrased version of his more salient points on this subject:

"...In America, a child drops out of school every nine seconds.  It’s worse for kids from a minority background and it’s worse for boys than girls. There is actually a disaster recipe developing among boys in America, literally dropping out of high school and college. The cause is not simply poor performance. A recent study shows that by the time a boy is 21years old, he’s spent 10,000 hours playing video games alone. That creates kids who have not learned social skills (i.e., emotional-social intelligence). It also creates kids who live in a world that they create. While they are playing Warcraft, Call of Duty and other games which are exciting and which they fully control, their brains are being digitally rewired. One of the consequences of this rewiring is that they will never fit in a traditional classroom that is analogue (i.e., someone talks at you without even the nice pictures). In other words, it is boring… the student controls nothing… the student sits there passively. Traditionalists who say schools should go back to traditional classrooms teaching reading-writing-arithmetic the old-fashioned way, according to Zimbardo, are proposing a disastrous solution that digitally rewired kids will never fit into. Today’s kids, Zimbardo says, have to  be in a situation where they are controlling something and school is set up so that students control nothing. It’s passive. School is all about learning delay of gratification, quite  literally, endlessly."

Creating a Different Future

One of my sons wants to become a teacher. Hopefully the high school classrooms he enters will be vastly different from the ones he will be leaving shortly. In-classroom digital tools will be imperative for successful teachers, students and schools in the not-too-distant future. Kids will need to be given more control over how they navigate the learning environment. Time adjustments will also be necessary, such as later starts to school days. With careful implementation, I believe that all of this can be achieved without sacrificing the authority of teachers and administrators (in fact, I think such changes will ultimately enhance their authority). I believe the same is true of work environments. As we recruit younger "digitally rewired" workers, those of us with a firmly analogue past will have to keep stretching to close the digital divide. We will have to accept the "rewired" workforce of our future as the brilliant, creative -- yet different -- folks they are certain to be.

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