“Not about them without them” is a phrase adapted from the field of collective impact — collaborative, cross-sector work that is at the heart of the purpose of DigCitUtah. This principle is based on the idea that real community change cannot happen when change agents simply do things to or even for people. We need to do things with them.
Children and youth (and even today’s young adults) are sometimes called “digital natives” because they are growing up knowing how to use technology from very young ages. Swiping, clicking, using apps — these are things that sometimes children know how to do better than adults.
But more than that, young people have lived experience with technology in a social and interpersonal sense. They have seen and experienced things that pre-millennial adults simply haven’t. And when it comes to technology, children have a lot to say, and they have ideas that can make a difference, if we will let them.
And yet, what EPIK has witnessed in over a year and a half of community meetings with adults and youth is that adults almost always start from a place of concern or fear when it comes to the issue of kids and tech. Youth and young adults, on the other hand, tend to start from a place of more optimism, excitement, and creative energy around the potential of technology.
Yes, children need the mentoring and guidance of adults, but adults also need the insight, experience, and ideas of youth if we are to navigate this digital world successfully — and bridge the already-entrenched generational gaps that exist because of technology.
In this TEDx talk, Devorah Heitner captures this need for adults to engage in empathic listening, seeking to understand the experience of digital natives with a spirit of curiosity, and the co-creation of ideas and solutions around the wise and productive use of technology.