I’m a digital immigrant. I remember my family’s first PC. It took up half the desk, the printer was as loud as the dishwasher, and when it was first set up, we crowded around to see the rectangle, green cursor as it blinked against the dark grey screen like a robot dog awaiting a command.
My kids are digital natives. They’re growing up in a home with six computers, some of which can fit in their pockets. For them, it’s more of a phenomenon when something with a screen isn’t connected to the Internet than when it is.
And just like immigrant parents raising their kids in a foreign land, my wife and I have to think carefully and creatively about how we’re raising our kids in this new world. We want them to be able to thrive here, to be fluent in the language, to be employable, and to be able to build relationships.
We’re also the keepers of all that’s good from the land we grew up in. There are good traditions and ideals that our kids can’t remember and won’t get naturally in today’s world without us.
And we’ve got to balance these (sometimes competing) realities all the while we nurture our relationships with kids whose normal is not so normal for us.
Jesus is our model in this. The culture in which he walked the earth was rich with tradition—some good, some neutral, and some bad. Certainly what he experienced was different from the Kingdom that had been his home. Some of the differences he adjusted to (Lk. 20:22-25), others he quietly opted to do differently (Mt. 9:11, Jn. 13:5), some he corrected (Mt. 23:23, Lk. 6:1-5), and some he actively sought to change (Mk. 10:42-45, Lk. 18:15-17).
I heard recently from a parent who said it’s the norm at his kid’s high school for a guy to text a girl when he wants to ask her out. In the world I grew up in, that would have been an act of disrespect and cowardice. Maybe that’s not universally true anymore.
So what are my choices as a parent? I can rant about it, I can insist my kids do it the old-fashioned way, or I can throw my hands up because I just don’t get “kids these days.”
Here’s another option: I can drill down to the essence of what I really want for my kids and go after those things. This involves prayerful discernment to recognize where I resist the digital world because it’s bad and where I resist the digital world because it’s different.
So if the norms in the digital world are different than what I grew up with, my kids can teach me that. My job isn’t to hold them back from knowing and operating within the cultural norms in this new land, my job is to look for teachable moments in this new world (yes, even online) to help instill the ideals my wife and I hold dear.
So looking at the example above, underneath the act of asking a girl out face to face, I’m after seeing certain characteristics instilled in my son:
Yes, secretly, I’m still hoping when my son reaches high school the culture holds to (or revives) the good old custom of a guy asking a girl out face to face. But whether it does or doesn’t, I can be about the business of helping my son grow to become a good godly young man who practices courage, vulnerability, respect, and service.
Hey, if you didn’t join us last week for the first week of our mini-series on Parenting in a Digital Age, I hope you’ll join us this week. Click here for more information or to register.
One more thought: As nostalgic as we may get for the “good old days,” our true Home isn’t there any more than it’s here in the digital age. As disciples of Christ, we were strangers and aliens then no less than we are now.
Share your thoughts below.
Old and crotchety,
Very insightful. I often find it easier to criticize the new generation’s way of doing things than to adjust, adopt, quietly not adopt, or criticize as Jesus modeled according to the root character traits behind these things.