By guest author, Deidre Marlowe

When they invented the ship, they invented the shipwreck. When they invented electricity, they invented the electric chair” – Paul Virilio. The cotton gin was patented as a labor-saving device in 1794. By 1810 the number of slaves in the United States had increased by 70%.  And the beat goes on… 

The Uninteded Consequences of the Digital World

It was the stuff of science fiction – until it was not. Instant communication with anyone anywhere in the world. All the world’s information, all its knowledge available at the click of a button. Revolution just by hitting ‘send.’ Most of today’s children are digital natives while their parents (and most of their teachers) are at best digital green card holders. It is unclear where today’s children’s digital lives end and their real lives begin or that there is in fact a difference. Meanwhile, there are reports that since the pandemic, when most communications were web-based, 25% of global youth suffer from depression and another 20% deal with anxiety disorders. 

Social interaction is critical to the growth of children. How to navigate it both online and in-real-life (IRL) is not something that is innate: it is something that must be taught. Parents, despite their lack of expertise, are the first teachers here. Parents must be willing to initiate difficult conversations about emotional subjects, be willing to validate their children’s feeling, and above all be ready to listen. Mental Health America, an organization that now seems prescient as it was founded in 1909, has many resources for parents.

Character Education Matters

Youth’s [co-]dependence on the internet and social media has resulted in today’s mental health crisis. There is no Las Vegas on the internet – what happens on it remains available on it — forever. This is why lessons in Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Digital Citizenship must go hand-in-hand. SEL develops self-awareness, self-control and interpersonal skills. Digital citizens use technology in a thoughtful, responsible, and empathetic manner. In combination, the two provide our children the tools they need to survive and thrive as balanced individuals in today’s world and to understand history from a more objective perspective.

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