Raising kids in the digital age has so many benefits. Like most things in life, with great privileges, comes great responsibility. How do we help guide our kids to be educated and wise versus being naïve and manipulated?
No other generation has faced the challenges of instant gratification and the exploitation of digital information. How often are we instilling the magnitude of this responsibility when we are just figuring it out ourselves? There’s no precedent.
If we are attentive, we can take advantage of the teachable moments to capitalize on potent lessons. Interesting, this requires us, as parents, to be attuned and not digitally distracted. If you share topics in the news with your kids, the rest of the article shares how I made some mistakes with social media, questioned the results, and taught my kids how to navigate these situations.
While sharing information about the Hawaiian eruption of Kilauea, I showed the various videos on YouTube showing the impressive images of the eruption. It was fun to share these videos and hear the kids’ “ooooh’s” and “awwee’s.” However, there’s the dark side of YouTube that we have to be careful of, which includes disturbing images and language that is not appropriate for kids.
For example, as one of the videos ended and the next one automatically played in the queue, the video showed a young girl at the edge of oozing lava, slipping and falling – right into the lava! She appeared to slide down the embankment to her fiery demise, ending with a lava explosion. Needless to say, we were terrified by the graphic video.
Once everyone was calm, I realized there seemed to be something fishy about the video and began asking the kids if they felt the same. Most of the time when we saw people standing so close to lava they were wearing special silver suits. We also learned sulfur dioxide is very intense near lava and causes breathing problems. The girl in the video didn’t show any breathing issues.
There was enough skepticism about the video, we took the time to investigate further - only to find out that it was fake. The producer cleverly took a video of a girl slipping on a beach and landing in the ocean and overlaid the image with the lava to create the illusion of the young girl’s death by lava. It was relieving to show the children she actually hadn’t perished. It was also a valuable lesson to show how easily “fake news” can be created.
It is critical we are aware of how we retrieve our information and validate it sources. Now more than ever, let’s enable the next generation to be critical thinkers with the skills to embrace the awesome power of knowledge with a tremendous sense of responsibility to decipher truth from fiction and be good steward of truth and wisdom.