Parents realize that technology has presented children with tons of opportunities. It has also introduced risks to kids’ safety. This podcast explores how parents weigh the risk-taking necessary for their learners to develop digital citizenship.
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Steve: 00:33 I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you today on the role of risk taking in student learning and in building relationships, and specifically identify how that risk taking fits into the concept of raising digital citizens. Very often, especially for young people, there’s a tendency to see risk taking as a negative. We don’t want our kids to be risk takers. But actually, learning how to take risks is a critical skill. It’s a skill employers are looking for as they want people who can be entrepreneurial, creative, innovative critical thinkers. And it’s really an important life skill as it’s through learning how to take risk in safe environments that we develop a perseverance – that ability to recover from failures. Risk taking is also a critical element of building relationships such as our parent-child relationships. Vulnerability is needed for trust to grow.
Steve: 01:51 So if we as parents are going to have a trusting relationship with our youngsters, we have to create some opportunities where they can mess up. It’s when they have that opportunity and they don’t mess up that trust is built and their confidence is increased. Technology today, with its continuous new opportunities, creates an ongoing need for us to learn how to analyze risk and be critical decision makers in that digital world. I find it valuable to look at the example of how kids learn to ride a bike and compare it to parental risk taking connected to many other things including technology. When kids are first learning to ride that bike, we set out to make it totally safe. We’re hanging on and nothing can go wrong. But in order for them to learn to ride the bike, we have to begin to back up and enter a stage that I call safety nets.
Steve: 03:01 We may be standing close by and we’ll catch you if the bike tilts. But increasingly, we have to step back further. And then we reach that point where we actually are giving a push as they move ahead with their learning. Now, when you’re in this role of making it first, initially safe, and then beginning to back off with safety nets, as a caregiver, as an instructor on the bicycle, you’re watching carefully and reading your youngsters confidence and ability to make the risk a little bit greater and then a little bit greater. And that’s how I move into that safety net system. The learner can be part of assessing that readiness and sometimes the kids will push us away telling us that they’re ready to take on a a greater risk.
Steve: 04:00 An example comes to my mind having having moved to Switzerland. In the culture here, our elementary schools tend to be quite small and close by. So most of the kids walk to school. And so it’s not uncommon to have kindergarten children walking to school on their own. And they wear a large bright yellow sash around their neck with a medallion on it and that tells everybody around, I’m a youngster on my way to school or I’m on my way home. And frequently, I heard stories about people who are new to moving into the culture, kind of following that kindergartener on the way to school, hiding behind trees for the parent to build their confidence that the youngster is ready while the child is building their confidence that they’re ready to take on that task.
Steve: 04:54 Now, when I look at bringing this to technology then, I think there’s a series of questions and discussions, both for parents as partners to be having with each other and for us as parents and caregivers to be having with our youngsters. When should we as parents be keeping control and making it totally safe for our child’s engagement, and when is it right for us to be stepping back and building more of a safety, net checking in on our youngsters decisions as they’re making them on their own? Almost like that parent hiding behind the tree. What are signs that we pick up as a parent that tell us our youngster is ready for more digital decision making on his or her own? And then equally, what signs might raise a concern that says, as a parent, we need to take back some of that decision making and wait a while longer or support or coach the child in the development of their readiness to be making those digital decisions on their own?
Steve: 06:09 Now, getting to that third step of being able to pull back and give a push creates an even bigger responsibility, both for the learner and for the parent. It’s an increase in responsibility for the learner because they have to be doing more analysis of the possible risk, they have to be doing more decision making on their own. Also, it’s a challenge for us as the parent or caregiver, because now we have to be observing from a distance. I’m not up close watching what’s happening. I may not even be present, but I need to be looking for signs or indicators. If I can stay with my Swiss school example, the middle schools here to tend to be a little bit further from home. So it’s not uncommon for me to be out on my lunchtime walk and I’ll find middle schoolers riding their motor scooters, their mini bikes back to home for lunch or coming back to school.
Steve: 07:17 So this student is now in a situation where the parent isn’t close by being able to observe what’s happening, but needs to be looking for indications of the decision making the youngster is engaged in. So carrying that over to technology, very often, I see this risk taking as kind of a dance. As a parent, I’m dancing with the child. Sometimes I’m following the child’s lead, and sometimes the child is following my lead. Mistakes are likely to be made, both mistake on the part of the parent as well as mistakes on the part of the child. So what do we do when those mistakes occur? And John Dewey, a famous educator laid out a great thought for us here on that. He made the statement that we do not learn from experience. We learn from reflection on experience.
Steve: 08:24 So my job as a parent and caregiver here is to engage in the reflection with the youngster about what they discovered or what they learned. As parent partners and as parents in a community, supporting each other, it’s great that we would take time to have some of those ongoing conversations about what are we learning from the experiences we’re having. Since much of learning is trial and error, then this process, both for students and for parents and caregivers is an important one. How do we explore digital citizenship together? Reflect and grow together from our experiences? What’s one of the next reflective conversations that you’re thinking you might wanna have with your youngster? I’m posing two questions here, as a possibility for you. What if you ask your child, what’s a recent thing you learned about making a digital decision? And it could be where they made the correct decision, or they made an incorrect decision. What’ll be most important is what is it that they learn from it?
Steve: 09:41 How are they using that knowledge? How are they using that insight? And another question you might ask is what are the questions you’re asking yourself as you search online – so when something pops up on the screen, what’s the thought process that the student is going through to look at moving that ahead? I encourage you to engage in these conversations with your youngsters and with other parents. Let’s see what we all can learn from the process. I’d be more than happy to follow up with you. And you can find me at barkleypd.com. It’s a spot where you could leave questions for me, as well as find other podcasts that I’ve made for parents. I wish you well in your continued learning, your continued reflection, both as a digital citizen yourself, as well as working to develop your child’s digital citizenship. Thank you.
Steve [Outro]: 10:44 Thanks for listening in folks. I’d love to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.