Raising Digital Natives

I contributed this article to my kids’ school paper last school year. The editor asked me to write about parenting… Eh I am not a parenting expert, that’s for sure. And parenting is such a vast and sometimes subjective topic, because “to each his own”. It’s not easy to write about parenting and not sound preachy or smug to some readers. So I wrote about something I thought was appropriate for our times – raising digital natives. (I edited the article a bit, because there’s always something badly written in anything I write, hehe.)


I first heard the term  “digital native” from my mommy blogger friend when I brought my eldest daughter along to a digital media forum. Pat was the youngest participant, and my friend was happy to see a young person listening intently and learning from the speakers. She called my daughter a digital native.

What are digital natives? Who are they??

kid blogger raising digital natives

Circa 2007. One-year old Nate loved to mess up my blogging sessions back then. Today, he is into gaming, and begs me to make him a YouTube account so he can be a “Youtoober”, as he pronounces it. *eyeroll*

The term “digital native” was introduced in 2001 by Marc Prensky, an advocate for innovative technology-based education.

Digital natives were born from around the mid-1990s, when the internet first became widely available, and are still being born up to the present, as technology continues to evolve. They are the kids who seem to be automatically wired for technology.

Have you ever seen a child handle an electronic gadget for the first time but, after the initial moments of apprehension, master it almost immediately? Without reading manuals or clicking “Help”, they figure out which cable goes into what port, which buttons on the console will do that awesome kick-jump-roll combination, what to swipe or tap on the iPad.

That is a digital native. That is your child.

On the contrary, we parents are digital immigrants. We grew up on encyclopedias and library catalogs, analog TV and rotary phones. We somehow manage to migrate and learn a bit of the digital language, though we’re not innately wired for technology.

How do we digital immigrants deal with our dear digital natives? I am all for learning through technology. I want my kids to be digitally savvy, because that is where the future is headed to. How do we make sure that our kids benefit from technology, instead of being harmed by it?

Although I do not claim to be an expert in the field, I have been raising three digital natives for the past 18 years. I’d like to share some tips; but really, mostly it’s by trial and error. 😛

Set guidelines. In our home, all phones and gadgets must be in the parents’ bedroom by 9 PM. If the kids have business to conduct after that time on their phones or iPad, they do it in our bedroom, in front of Papa and Mama. What guidelines are applicable to your family? (Edit: Since my eldest child turned 18, her phone stays with her. I trust her to be a responsible adult.)

Monitor. My kids give me their account names and passwords to their emails and social media accounts – that’s non-negotiable if they want those accounts approved. They also must agree that their gadgets come with a fine print: Papa and Mama can inspect randomly. It’s a dirty job, but we have to monitor and know what the kids are into. We call it guided freedom – our kids are free to use technology but we, their parents, guide them.

Teach digital safety. Educate your children about protecting their privacy. Geotags and location service must be turned off at all times, or at least not set to public. There is no need to announce to the web world where they are at this very moment. Talk to them about internet predators, stalkers, and identity thieves – they do exist. Avoid using real names, and giving out complete details of birth, school and home.

twitter location setting raising digital natives

Uncheck location box on Twitter settings to avoid announcing location with each tweet.

Encourage responsibility. Technology has made it so easy for everyone to speak their minds. Anyone can post anything they want. Internet bullies gang up together. Let’s teach our kids to go by “think before you click” – if the post is something they would hide from you or their teachers, it’s probably not a good idea to post it.

Stay ahead, parents. Don’t be afraid of technology. Try to learn privacy settings of your social media accounts so you can check your kids’. I did not start out tech-savvy, but I learned my way through the internet. I once installed a wifi router that could control the internet usage of all gadgets. How my kids hated that router. 😛 (Read more about the Linksys E1000 here.)

I learned how to block websites (like Omegle) with inappropriate content. Almost everything we need to know is just a Google search away. Go that extra click and be willing to learn. Learn the digital natives’ language. If our kids know that they can come and talk to us about techie stuff, that’s plus 10 parenting points!

With great power comes great responsibility, wika nga ni Uncle Ben Parker. This is so cliché but so true. Our kids hold great power at their fingertips. Let’s raise them to be responsible digital natives.


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