As Apple celebrates the iPhone’s 10th anniversary, Generation Z’s motto could very well be Steve Job’s initial selling point...”Your life in your pocket.” Generation Z never knew the world before the internet, before everything you could ever need was one click away.
According to Google’s “Get Lit” Research, only 9.6% of teens ages 13-17 don’t use a smartphone. The survey, “Monitoring the Future,” an annual government-funded report measuring drug use by teenagers, found that past-year use of illicit drugs other than marijuana was at the lowest level in the 40-year history of the project for eighth, 10th and 12th graders. Could smart phones be replacing the drug “high” amongst teens? Generation Z is the most evolved generation, but when it comes right down to it, they are savvy, but regular kids exposed to a global infrustructure without proper digital education. At age 16 a teenager is required to pass a driving test in order to safely navigate our roads, but we give youth carte blanche permission to enter into a digital existence where their every online move is documented, creating a digital footprint that stays with them forever. Careers, acceptance into Universities, identity theft, and trafficking can blast a teen into a life changing situation full of fear and regret, all due to a lack of digital education.
While we won’t solve the digital education issue overnight, we can, however, celebrate iPhone’s 10th Anniversary by starting the education process at home: the same place our morals, values and family rules begin. A teens lifeline depends on it!
The “Don’t Talk to Strangers” rule should be especially applied online. Private accounts don’t stop predators from sneaking into your child’s digital world. The number of followers, likes and comments can often blur the importance of safety. Monitoring your child’s account will help alleviate potential stranger danger. To emphasize this further, your child’s photo can be tagged on someone else’s account (Open or Private) giving a predator valuable information. This is especially dangerous when youth post long list bio’s that share their full name, school, BFF’s and hobbies. Footprint Friday, a tool to monitor your child’s digital footprint gives you a peace of mind without being a visual “helicopter parent”.
Once you click, your words will stick! Youth have a great amount of power with their online voice. During my middle school years, I was tortured by a cyber-bully (a “friend” who was popular and became jealous) and I can’t stress enough the importance of being confident and knowing your self-worth. Mean always stings, but possessing these traits helps youth break free of the trenches of online negativity. Teaching kindness seems like common sense, but this simple act somehow gets lost in our virtual world. Be the example.
“Your life in your pocket” gives you the power to shape our world - how you choose to shape it is up to you. We can launch ideas, create positive change, and connect with an endless possibility of mentors and peers in a global fashion. Some might call me optimistic, but never underestimate Gen Z’ers. We’re celebrating our curiosity, boldness, and bravery like no other, and we hold the digital responsibility to shape the next generation for good. HOWEVER: Balance is the key factor. After all, we are human and should place importance on face-to-face social interaction. How well we communicate, love and share in the real human sense is what continues to fuel the addicting life in our pocket.
Until Cyber Citizenship is taught in the classroom, a positive digital footprint begins at home. Inspire your sons & daughters to use the life in their pocket for good!
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