Raising Tech Savvy Children: The Conversation

The feedback on my article Why Caribbean Parents aren’t Raising the Next Mark Zuckerberg has been phenomenal. It was even picked up by the Jamaican Observer which extended the conversation even further. Clearly it struck a nerve with many, not only in the Caribbean and I have been pondering what next? How do we become better at parenting this and future generations?

A comment was made that Mark had parents who could first invest in him going to Harvard and then willing to allow him to walk away to pursue an idea. We could talk about that and about the systems which exist in America that allow for access to finance and permits more risk taking and which are nonexistent in the Caribbean but I won’t right now. Another question has been taking up my thoughts: how do we raise children who are more tech savvy?

My definition of being tech savvy has been stretched beyond children knowing how to be safe online, how not to bully or accept bullying and now includes how to leverage the platforms they frequent to be a world changer/influencer and earn an income. I am giving myself a failing grade on this one for my household. We have not had enough conversations about how mommy does what she does and how that turns into the clothes they wear or the food they eat.

Part of that I realize is that, in many ways, I’m still figuring out how this all works. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been active online since 2000, like many Caribbean people I am super cautious and take too long to move on something once I figure out there is merit in doing it. My head is down in my laptop and I can hear what they are listening to. How often do I have a conversation about who the vlogger is? What are you learning from them? Now I’m being asked can I start an account on a new platform so I can follow so and so? Here’s my opportunity.

Who are they? Why do you want to follow them? Do you know they are using their follower numbers to leverage for sponsorship and advertising? What are you adding to the conversation when you follow them? What else do you want to say on this platform? They need to be able to add to the conversation or in my opinion they aren’t ready to be on it.

So maybe I am winning because they still ask my permission and their siblings will tell on them if they dared to set up new social accounts before asking. The question is how do I get them to win at being online? They aren’t all extroverts like me. They are not yet bothered by needing to make money to pay rent or buy clothes but how do we position them for that?

I can’t tell you to turn your children into entrepreneurs overnight but have the conversation about the possibility. Show them how hits on a YouTube video become cash and opportunities. Ask them about who they are following and watch some of the videos and the snaps. You cannot be too busy to take a minute to watch or ask a question.

It’s annoying at times. They tell me about every movie, new song, artist, memes. I see it all. I’m winning aren’t I? I have to make a conscious effort not just to say oh cool or laugh at the meme but ask what is your contribution to this conversation? What interesting stories are you sharing that were generated from your own imagination? What strategy did you notice they used to get you to keep coming back to watch more videos or to follow them on SnapChat? You don’t even need to know the answer but when you ask both of you will begin to see the answers coming at you through whatever mediums you frequent.

I will take their rolled eyes because I turn a light hearted moment into a business strategy session but I want them to see what is being sold to them without one sales pitch. Why did cat videos become a thing? Why are we dreaming of being wonder chefs after watching all those Tasty videos? How do we do the same with our own ideas and on the same platforms?

You don’t have to know how everything works. That is what makes the internet so powerful today. We do need to be intentional about putting the internet to work for us. The answers are there and where you see lack in the things most important to you, is the space where you can make the contribution needed.

What strategies are you using with your children. Please share in the comments.

Nerissa Golden writes on entrepreneurship, leveraging technology and media to change lives and communities. She is a six-time author, now fusing business strategy with romance in novels. Follow her on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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