What to Do with a Generation of "Firsts"
In the past, I've about how young people today are part of a generation of “firsts.” Just like the Boomers were the first generation to grow up with TV, high school and college students today are among a generation who are the first to experience several realities. In fact, because they’re initiating these realities, they may present a challenge to you as parents and teachers. Adults are grappling with how to raise this population of kids who grew up online, with a screen in their hands. Consider the following “firsts” they represent.
This is the First Generation of Youth Who:
- Doesn’t need adults to get information.
- Can broadcast their every thought or emotion to those who follow them.
- Has external stimuli at their fingertips 24/7.
- Is socially connected at all times, but often connects in isolation.
- Will learn more from a portable device than from a classroom.
- Adults have enabled to be narcissistic instead of valuing a team.
- Uses a phone instead of a wristwatch, camera, wall calendar or board game.
- Scores lower on global comparisons, but believe they’re “awesome.”
So What Do We Do?
So—how do we lead them? How do we provide wisdom to help them navigate this new world? How can we enable them to embrace new technology but not lose the timeless relational skills that enable them to be good with people? Let’s start here.
- Provide an agreement on how to use their cell phone, not be used by it. Talk it over, then both of you sign it which will provide accountability on the use of this tool.
- Balance “screen time” and “face time”. Match the hours they spend in front of a screen with the hours face-to-face with people.
- Determine that both of you (your class, team or family) will do a technology “fast” once a month, where no one texts, emails or is on Facebook for a whole day.
- Teach them to use the “employer” rule when they tweet or post. Would they want their boss to see what they’ve said?
- When they see a show or movie (or if you watch one together) discuss its meaning and through reflection on plot and values, begin cultivating critical thinking skills.
- If you discover something they really “want”, create a game that enables them to “wait” on getting it, thereby developing the ability to delay gratification.
- Help them discover redemptive ways they can use technology to serve the world around them—either helping their community or their campus.
This is just a start. How we can help this generation navigate the world of portable technology without sacrificing soft skills, empathy, and emotional intelligence?
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