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The Battle for Our Youth

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There are cultural lures pulling kids in every direction today. We must see where culture is heading and prepare them.

I was stopped dead in my tracks one morning after reading an interview Steve Jobs gave to New York Times reporter Nick Bilton. Shortly before Jobs passed away, Bilton asked him, “So your kids must love the iPad?” Jobs responded:

“They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

What? Wait… Steve Jobs said that?

Yep, and so do many other tech wizards who live in Silicon Valley. These executives and engineers tend to shield their kids from technology, going so far as to send their children to non-tech schools (where computers can’t be found) that focus on hands-on learning. I wonder if these tech leaders know something the average American doesn’t understand?

Once you become a parent or a teacher, you begin to look at life differently. This includes examining the long-term effects of social trends. Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics and a father of five, explained what drives those who work in the technology field to guard their kids from too much of it:

“My kids accuse me and my wife of being fascists and overly concerned about tech, and they say that none of their friends have the same rules… That’s because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand. I’ve seen it myself, and I don’t want to see that happen to my kids.”

Pause and reflect for a moment. When you examine your own deficits and baggage, doesn’t it move you to want to guide this younger generation away from those negatives? If our current addictions to our iPhones or other devices are any indication, we may be setting our children up for incomplete, handicapped lives—devoid of imagination, creativity and wonder—when we allow them unlimited access to screens. As adults, we were the last generation to regularly play outside, precisely because we didn’t have smart phones, tablets and laptops. We learned from running, jumping, and hands-on interaction, and we consumed information via books and socialization with other humans, not Google. So how do we recover from this?

Start with Three Steps

Obviously, technology is not going away, and most of us don’t want it to, either. So leading young people is a balancing act. We must find ways to lead our students proactively, in order to build well-rounded people. What characteristics do we want our children to possess as they begin their adult life, their marriages, and their careers? My guess is that you want them to be savvy with a computer, but you want so much more than that, right? So let me offer three steps to lead them well:

  1. Begin with the end in mind.

Jot down a list of the qualities you’d like your students to possess as they enter adulthood. These could be soft skills like good communication, listening skills, the ability to see beyond their own interests, an optimistic outlook, etc.

  1. Talk through these goals with students.

One of the wisest decisions I made as a trainer and a dad was to inform my kids on the list of outcomes they’d need as emerging adults. When this topic became a mutual goal, we were able to collaborate on a plan to develop these qualities in them.

  1. Implement the Big IDEA.

I’ve longed believed that if students are to learn something, adults must practice:

I – Instruction – They need verbal explanation and conversation. (Hear it)

D – Demonstration – They need observation and examination. (See it)

E – Experience – They need participation and practice. (Do it)

A – Assessment – They need to evaluate and measure growth. (Debrief it)

As parents, my wife and I would throw parties and have our kids host the guests who came—providing them with a place to practice social skills. We made sure we balanced tech-time with touch-time, insuring that each hour on a screen was matched with equal time face-to-face with people. We traveled and exposed them to unfamiliar cultures that required work to understand and communicate with locals. We introduced them to mentors, where they learned to ask questions and glean from older generations. We took them to homeless shelters and soup kitchens so they’d learn to serve others and appreciate the blessings they enjoyed at home.

May I remind you?

ISIS just released a video that shows jihadist militants recruiting young boys by giving them ice cream and candy and the kids loved it. It’s a scary scenario. Frankly, there are cultural lures pulling kids in every direction today, even American kids. We must see where culture is heading and prepare them.

Teachers—you’re not just teaching a subject, you’re training future leaders.

Parents—you’re not just raising kids, you’re raising future adults.

Employers—you’re not hiring cheap, young workers, you’re preparing managers.

Coaches—you’re not just helping them win games, you’re teaching life lessons.

Youth workers—you’re not just entertaining kids, you’re equipping world changers.

Believe it or not, our culture today is full of landmines. Let’s prepare our youth to navigate their way through them successfully.

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