As parents, most of us will nod in agreement to the saying: “It takes a village to raise a child.” The support and love of others makes it easier to raise our children.
We all have stories of our village. The place we call home. The house with the loud yappy dog; the teenager who held the first party; the guy who always mows his lawn at 7am on the weekend. Your village is most likely full of unique characters.
As my children have grown and started to engage in the Internet and social media, I started to ask one fundamental question: where is the village online? The one that nurtures us, takes care of us, and looks out for ALL our interests. I wondered who was making the rules? Who was really in charge of these spaces?
How do you as a family navigate this system and more importantly, how can we raise hopeful digital citizens? How do we create hope in a technology world that is addicted to fear and not concerned with your brain, your kids, or your overall emotional being?
Creating a Digital Village is not about the idyllic perfect village that Truman (The Truman Show) believed he was living in - we eventually hit a false sky. That false sky is the world of social media today. False pictures, false sense of self, fictitious villages that are robbing us of our precious time to delve into the truth of who we are. Too much of our time is spent creating false narratives of what we want people to believe. All the while taking us away from what truly matters: Love, Family, Respect, Truth, and most of all Hope.
Here are some critical first steps in creating the next generation of Digital Citizens:
Step 1: Take Your Kids Back
Do the spaces your children spend their time teach them love or fear?
It’s a question that parents ask every day. When movies started to become more mainstream they came with a rating system. We could decide if this was going to scare our children, nurture our children, or make them laugh out loud. There was limited content so this system seemed fairly straight forward.
Once the internet and technology started to expand we were blown away by the incredible pace of connectivity. Trading in our time for virtual relationships with people we don’t often see in real life. It outpaced our learning curve and as a result we are now beginning to wake up and are wondering what happened.
The model in technology is simple. If it is ‘free’ you are paying for the system with your time, your child’s information, their social well-being, their emotions, and in some cases, exposing your children to risk. These fear based ad/data systems are modelled to create an addiction, to have our kids taking in copious amounts of content. At the cost of what? Their dreams, their hope, and their love. Our children cannot escape a system that is not designed to protect them. What price would you pay for your child’s education, health, and emotional development?
The economy in digital is based on a skewed free system that is freely using our kids to make money. The big tech platforms are banking a great deal of billions on that exact impact, are you okay with that?
Step 2: Support tech spaces that give you, the parent, your power back
Demand protection, rights, freedom to choose, and only support technology that nurtures your child.
When creating a Digital Village for children to grow and nurture, my first question is: Is it not our children’s right to have a safe place to dream? To be hopeful? To have faith that ALL is possible? Napoleon Hill said that when creating a dream, kick all naysayers off your dream bus. You do not need to fill your brain with any negativity when you are trying to bring a dream alive. It will serve no purpose to the creation of your dream when you have that negativity reminding you of all the bad in the world.
Parents, I get it, you’re tired. This world of technology is confusing. Many times it confuses me and I am an entrepreneur in this space. For adults it may feel good for you, but for children, is it really good for their emotional health? Do our children not have the right to explore without being exposed needlessly? If we are going to live our lives in technology spaces, we should protect our kids’ right to grow up with a sense of hope. Protect their hearts, their brains, and their data. Parents, it is absolutely your right as their parent to demand protection in technology, the same way we demand protection in education, health, and national security. Why should tech be any different?
Step 3: Take YOUR Brain back
All our children truly need in this vast, big world is us. Present us. Not distracted, angry, agitated us. Not the feeling unworthy you after you’ve read through social media feeds of other people living fabulous lives. Not the you that has just fought with a stranger on social media, read a politician's tweets, or been annoyed by that person from high school. Parents, when we get honest with ourselves our desires are the same as our kids. We want to be loved, to belong, to be heard, to be important to those around us.
Social media brings us back to the inner child that is buried deep inside, with an old wound of not feeling good enough. She was the kid who did not get invited to the birthday party, that once was shy, insecure, not liked by boys. Our inner child is so activated on social media that we are duped into believing we can change an old narrative about ourselves. We as parents are just as lost in the vortex of social media. It is time we take our brains back and love who we are today.
The Internet and social media continually like to say we are all connected: “Feel connected to the world. Find spaces you belong.”
Unfortunately most tech platforms don’t care about you, your insecurities, or your feelings. The technology systems where you spend your time have you just as activated as our young children, the only difference is, is that we as parents know better.
Oprah always says: when you know better you do better.
Step 4: This is YOUR Brain on Tech
In the 80’s they had a commercial with an egg being cracked in a frying pan with the statement: this is your brain on drugs. It was such an amazing metaphor that many of us kids were scared straight into not becoming scrambled eggs.
Social media is built in the exact same fashion, except more potent, more deceptive, and more addictive. Curious about how your brain is affected? Read this article about Dopamine addiction.
By disconnecting from social media we can reverse its negative effects on our brain. Instead of checking our newsfeeds we can read a book, play with our children, take the time to exercise, or simply be present.
Step 5: Come Back to Hope
Hope rests on the feeling that you know in your heart that you are enough. If any part is blocked, wounded, or numbed, hope becomes harder to find. As parents, we are just as susceptible as our children. Many adults are just big kids still looking for a place to belong. Technology/social media gave us that immediate hit on our need to be heard, to be part of a group, to belong. Yet it never fully healed the wounds we so desperately wanted to forget.
The power of hope and love is why I got into the tech industry. To create a digital space of love. To give love. To learn to receive love.
Creating the Digital Village for our children as reflected back from my own roots and my real-life village. A village of immigrant families who came to Canada to begin a new life. These families that raised me may not have known the language, the culture, the norms, or the education system. But they had HOPE.
As a child, many days, hope was all I had. But WOW what a force it was. I believed I deserved a chance at a great life even if my outside experiences lacked any evidence to that fact. I learned from this wonderful village of families that if I worked hard and held onto my core values I could make something out of my life. It was my protection from the world of naysayers and it was the most critical part of my upbringing.
Creating a Digital Village in today’s world of knowledge, content, and chaos is recognizing that we can change this together. By beginning with our children, we as parents can come together and carve out a space in the world wide web that is the largest playground but is surrounded by caring parents. Our children deserve every opportunity to be raised in a Digital Village that teaches core values and is the ultimate guardian of hope. Kids will eventually learn that the world is full of chaos but my sincere hope is that today is not that day. Hope is our fuel, and yes, WE CAN create this together.