As part of a generation that came before, it’s tough watching kids navigate their multiple technological platforms with such dexterity, learning to speak new social media languages so fluently, solving IT problems so intuitively. It can make us feel competitive, old, and irrelevant. It can make some worry that it somehow equals a drop in our authority over our children. While parents’ tech competency runs the gamut from none to excellent, for most of us, technology is a world that rose up around us and for our kids, they’ve been learning by osmosis since they took their first breaths. This gives them the advantage of native fluency. There’s no winning.
Keeping up with tech is essential if we value staying connected to our kids’ world. And we should. If you are a luddite or if you are a savvy software engineer, there is always more you can do to understand what your kids are up to; and there’s always more you can learn to boost your own skills. It can seem overwhelming, even annoying. But, if you are one of us who wants to do more to stay connected, it doesn’t have to be. Here are some things you can do that will make you less overwhelmed and more plugged-in with the new world order.
Practice radical acceptance. Your kids are surpassing you, this is their birthright. Don’t struggle trying to control it. When you accept it, you can work with it. Let your kids become the IT specialists in your home and learn from them. It will bring you closer.
Use technology. Make your own digital project using some of the amazing free software available. Don’t be constrained by ideas of perfection – it won’t be perfect. It’s a canvas and you get to color it. Let the goal be to get familiar with it, not to produce something marketable, and see what happens!
Blog. True, few may read it, but it will be your creation, and blogs are the perfect forum for understanding the digital air our kids breathe. Plug in whatever you like and see how different bits of tech work together. Added bonus: writing is a great way to relieve stress and add clarity to your thinking.
Make social media your own. While your kids’ Snapchat stories may seem like nothing more than silly selfies, the fact is that kids are increasingly using digital images to communicate – and so is the rest of the world. Learn to speak to their language. Or better, speak to your own friends in that language. Reserve judgement and just give it a try. You might soon be coordinating carpools as a warbling wren!
Subscribe to weekly digests. There is way too much out there to sift through everyday unless it’s your full time work. Short of a career on the forefront of science and technology, curated newsletters condense and distill the information for you. Pick and choose between subjects that are relevant to you.
Magazines still matter. Check out Wired Magazine periodically for a jump on the intersections of cutting-edge science, technology, and culture. With in-depth analysis as well as enlightening video content, Wired presents news that is intelligent, relevant, and captivating.
Don’t succumb to overwhelm! Even the most genius of geniuses could not keep up with the leaps in technology. It’s enough to put in one toe at a time, and keep your focus on the bigger picture. Allow yourself a bit of time each week to pop on and see what’s happening and then pop off before you head down any rabbit holes. You’re not going to miss anything major.
Still seem daunting? What gets you excited? Let your passion be your path as you foray into the world of tech. No need to go macro. Find one small area you are compelled to explore because it speaks to you, and discover. How is your most cherished social movement using tech to support their cause? How is your favorite artist’s work influenced by technology and how do they use it creatively? How can you yourself use it to further your knowledge and deepen your understanding of a certain subject?
It’s a brave new world, but you are brave and brilliant too. Don’t fret, don’t compete. See what adventures you’ll find when you join your kids on the frontier.
Jenny Kepler, MA, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist and writer who has been helping families navigate parenthood for over 10 years. Her office is in downtown Portland, OR where she does in person therapy with adults, couples and families. She also offers parent coaching over the phone for people who can’t see her in Portland. http://jennykepler.com/