We love to share insights from collaborative partners who are passionate about kids and technology. In an EPIK community meeting about digital citizenship, Shannon Babb from Utah County 4H STEM said something simple and profound — a concept that, in paraphrased form, we repeat often.
Technology is a magnifier.
It’s true. Bad stuff exists in our world, and where bad stuff can happen to kids (bullying, stealing of personal information, exposure to violent and sexually explicit material), technology can magnify the impact and risk.
Kids hear adults talk about this reality a lot. The media focuses on the bad stuff a lot.
But are our children and students hearing enough about the good that technology can magnify?
As we have had youth and college students present in our community meetings, more than once, they have called the adults on the carpet on how easily the conversation around kids and technology can turn negative. “Technology is a neutral tool,” they will remind the older adults in the room.
It’s relatively easy as humans to focus on the negative. After all, we are wired to react to things that pose a threat (think fight-or-flight response). But fear is not a long-term motivator; people quickly burn out with messages of gloom and doom. Parents feel overwhelmed (“How can I possibly protect my kids from all the bad stuff?”) and generational gaps (which might only make fears more self-fulfilling) can increase when avoiding the bad is the primary focus.
We definitely have to help kids avoid the negative. But if don’ts dominate the conversation, and controlling, monitoring, limiting, and shunning screen time is the badge of honor for parents, teachers, administrators and other adult mentors, how much positive influence will adults really have? And how motivated will kids be to use technology for good?
EPIK hopes that with the expanding conversation around digital citizenship, adults will work together with youth to deliberately devote some time to exploring all the great ways technology is already magnifying the good, and co-creating ideas about yet-undiscovered good that can be done.
p.s. You’ll note that we used the magnifying glass icon, which on this site represents Media Literacy, which is all about learning how to use tech tools to find information, and learning how to be critical consumers and skilled creators of content. In order for adults to help kids be media literate, we need to be media literate ourselves. Remember that kids can help us learn as well. We need each other in this process of learning to be good citizens in our digital world.