Is the internet a “parents’ worst nightmare”? Political columnist Michelle Grattan suggests “Parents’ concerns means that the pollies are getting worried too.” Yes parents are worried. So are schools, teachers and counselors. The question is, how can we help. Of course we rely on governments to offer secure legislative foundations. But legislation, rules and restrictions are not enough.
We need proactive strategies that empower children to protect themself. A year ago I suggested we need to teach students how to use Facebook responsibly. Now it is time to examine ways to encourage teenagers to develop their own authentic voice. Our children may be digital natives, but they are not equipped to navigate a new world filled with enhanced, old world problems. Children are being bullied on-line and parents feel powerless to help. Schools cannot keep up with rapidly expanding environments that offer limitless opportunities to explore digital frontiers. Government legislation struggles to compete with boarders opened by technological keys.
We all know dangers lurk within cyber realms. We all know steps must be taken to ensure the safety of our kids. But too many programs focus on digital treatments; it is time to develop technology vaccinations.
Parents, carers and teachers need to know how to help children realise they can minimise risk. Of course we need to provide safe places. However, our children also need their own shields and weapons; tools that empower and protect. We need to help our teenagers develop the skills they need to help themselves; this has particularly relevance for those times we are not there to guide them.
Today’s child is uber-connected. Many have a well developed sense of social conscience, however they feel disenfranchised and detached. They are lost within a world that bombards them with information but doesn’t take the time to teach them the practical strategies they need to interpret or evaluate that information. Today’s children are pioneers in a wild cyber world that evolves rapidly. Many adults misinterpret the effect of growing up in digitally connected spaces. They forget that being exposed to multiple cultures and ideas can lead to a wider sense of social justice. Many of today’s youth are sensitive to the needs of faceless others but, because their connections are cyber based, they fail to develop personal connections. This fracture leads to confusion and frustration. Our kids want to ‘matter’ they want to feel as though they have a voice and that someone will listen. They want their life to mean something. Yet, too often they lack the self awareness or literacy skills to articulate their thoughts and emotions to themselves, let alone wider society. Too many suffer from anxiety and low self-esteem because they lack the skills to interpret what they are thinking and feeling. As a result they ‘act up’ and ‘lash out’, directing inner anger toward outer victims. They settle for destructive relationships and hide behind a peer favored mask.
I believe students can use critical reflection and thoughtful expression to discover the path of a lifelong learner. My quest is to help young adults develop critical, emotional and creative literacy. Through the mindful appreciation of stories, narrative technique, focused breathing and creative visualisation students can learn how to identify and manage their emotions. When teenagers discover they have a voice that speaks loud enough to be heard, they may begin to develop a sense of where their lives fit within a wider community.
MyStory; MyQuest is my attempt to help teens find inner awareness, discover an authentic voice and become confident lifelong learners who have the skills to thrive in digitally enhanced landscapes.
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