I overheard an educator recently state that, “Kids of today do not know how to have a conversation. All they do is text, tweet, and post.” It leaves a bad taste in my mouth every time I hear adults say this, especially teachers. As a mom of teenagers and an educator passionate about educational technology, this statement paints a picture of a robotic teenager focused solely on their phones’ glowing screens. But herein lies the problem with this perception. These teenagers are also human beings, and human beings by nature need movement, emotion, and physical contact. They have lots of energy, interests, social contacts, and ideas. Teens love to engage in controversy, run miles, throw balls, bake cakes, and play music. None of these things happen with a screen in their hand.
Maybe the issue is that those making this proclamation do not know what to do with a smart device. And that is fine. Maybe these individuals should take a step back and ask what kids are doing instead of casting judgement. Maybe those kids are posting their mile times in a running log or sharing a picture of their chocolate cake they just baked. Or how about the idea that a student might be writing a political blog on their smart phone that is reaching thousands of people ? Those casting judgement and making sweeping remarks grouping all kids into one category be warned. It was never ok to make stereotypes about race or gender so why do some adults think it is ok to make stereotypes about kids and their tech?
Instead, I say understand and embrace the tech, and use it in a way that increases their passion for learning and their interests in their own passions. The sweet spot for kids is when their passion meets technology that can further their pathways for success. For example, my daughter loves to paint nails in all sorts of colors. What started out as a hobby is morphing into an online business at www.etsy.com online. The combination of her passion and tech will be her income during college. She takes pictures and puts them into her store and then shares the link vie messaging to her sorority sisters. It might look like she is just glaring at her screen, but that little screen is helping her pay for pizza, movies, and formal dresses.
Every generation has a stereotype. Ours was that we were lazy, our lives were too easy and we’d never be working, contributing adults. I think I turned out alright, and I believe the i-generation will turn out alright as well. Maybe even better than ours because the sky is the limit in how they manipulate those powerful tools. So the next time you feel the need to cast judgement on these kids, stop and ask them what they are up to. They might be changing the world and their lives for the better with the tech in their hands.