Traditionally, we have celebrated the milestone ‘firsts’ in the lives of our children. First tooth, first step, first day of school, first time driving, first date. These milestones have a significant impact in the development of our children’s physical, social, and emotional well-being. In today’s fast paced world, I wonder if we’ve slowed down enough to consider the ‘new’ milestone?
As I reflect on my week, I realize that as a parent it is my job to pause and celebrate, what I feel to be, one of the most impactful milestones my child will reach – entering the world of social media.
This was a big week at our house. My 9 year old son brought home a letter from his teachers indicating that they would be using Twitter for learning purposes in their grade 4/5 classroom. As a Twitter user myself, I know the power of learning, sharing, connecting and networking this tool can have and I was excited to work with my son to have him create his own account. This invitation by his teachers opened an opportunity to embrace social media with a clear purpose for my child – to enhance his learning and create a positive digital portfolio.
I feel confident that the age of 9 (almost 10 if you ask him) is the perfect time to introduce my child to social media. The platform itself is not the focus – SnapChat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – it really doesn’t matter. The idea is that this is a journey that we will do together at home, allowing us to talk about his day through his posts. It gives him an opportunity to think critically about what he has captured on his device and what is worth sharing out as he creates his digital identity. I look forward to supporting him in becoming digitally literate with the platform, opening up conversations on appropriate uses for social media, watching him create a positive digital footprint, and as he states, “do great things”.
In anticipation of most childhood milestones, parents plan for they day when they finally occur. We hold their hands, we put on training wheels, we teach them to cross the street, we sign them up for driving lessons – social media is no different. I’m excited to go through this learning stage with my son and get him ready for the day when he’ll go confidently and wisely into the online world, by himself – but for now I’ll hold his hand and guide him along the way.
A special thank you to my son’s teachers (and all teachers like them) for realizing the importance of embedding digital citizenship into our children’s learning day, for giving students opportunities for an authentic audience, for trusting that they will make good choices and supporting them when they don’t, and for providing relevant learning experiences that capture their interests. The impact you have on our children is remarkable.
A second shout out goes to George Couros, who was my son’s third follower on Twitter (after his dad and I). George worked with students in our district last month and from this learning day, Noah came home excited about the world of social media and the power of creating his own positive digital identity. He made a promise to George in his second tweet that he would “do great things” – and I have no doubt that he will.