There’s a story floating around the internet, you may have seen it, about a mom who gave her 13 year old son an iphone for Christmas, along with a lengthy contract on how to use it. The mom is writer, Janell Burley Hofmann and her contract is fascinating, an outline of how to integrate new technology in to childhood. She encourages her son to enjoy it but not let it take over his time or better judgement.
I am very interested in how we introduce children to modes of communication. Each medium is different and has its own pleasures and particularities. And responsibility! Hofmann gets a VSM stamp of approval for guiding her son’s use of his new iphone and the unprecedented access to texting/internet searching/calling/face time calling/picture taking/video recording/music listening/game playing/weather checking/map reading/etc. that the device allows.
I used to teach New York City teens how to make documentaries about their own lives and communities. With access to video technology and storytelling skills came true empowerment. But there was plenty of discussion about how to use this newfound power to communicate meaningfully and responsibly. I helped them navigate this new terrain. Now as a parent I am that guide for my children, mostly in how I model my own ways of communicating. My children watch everything I do including how I talk to people, when I dip out of the present to reply to text messages, how often I am at my computer, and that despite all this instant media, I still value paper mail.