UNTRENDING: Preparing kids for a digital life

Entrepreneur, speaker, and columnist Vicki McLeod offers some insight into children and cyberspace

By Vicki McLeod/Special to THE NEWS

Digital Life Skills for Youth is a new book by Self-Counsel Press author Angela Crocker.

While it may be fair to say that much has been written on this subject, and that parents and educators have been coming to terms with the digital risks and rewards for youth for much of the last decade or so, Crocker’s book offers an important new perspective.

Her approach emphasizes the development of good digital citizenship, rather than focusing solely on online risks and danger.

This approach is an empowering one for youth and their parents and caregivers. As the title states, this is a book about fostering digital life skills and is, according the book jacket, “for anyone who wants to be a positive guiding influence on the next generation of digital citizens.”

This is a key concept, as throughout the book Crocker underscores the importance of trusted adults as role models who not only demonstrate good digital citizenship in their own behaviour online (and off) but also design boundaries and impose limits around youth Internet use.

Crocker calls upon parents and teachers to work together to educate and inspire youth emerging as digital citizens. Nothing is more powerful than personal example.

To quote Crocker, “Digital citizenship requires self-regulation skills. As we live and work online, you’ve got to be able to regulate actions and emotions. And you’ve got to monitor your offline needs—social, physical, emotional, spiritual—and step away from screens as needed to live a healthy and productive life. But apps and devices are designed to keep us playing, engaging, and living online so it takes tremendous discipline and lots of practice to self-regulate in this way.”

From navigating tricky online relationships to learning how to identify fake news and bias to knowing when to step away from our screens and devices, the online environment is a challenging one for most mature adults. Add to that challenge the very reasonable expectation that we provide leadership and set an example for today’s youth, often without feeling fully skilled ourselves. Digital Life Skills for Youth is a much-needed practical resource to help us set youth up for digital success.

Crocker does not ignore the very real online perils of the Internet such as cyberbullying, identity theft, child pornography, and potential tech addiction, offering tools, solutions and guidance to parents, guardians and educators to enable youth to safely navigate these issues. At the same time, she illustrates the importance of digital savvy as an ongoing life skill, one that youth need to be taught, in much the same way as they are taught other basic skills. Digital Life Skills for Youth is an easy-to-follow guide that covers core digital skills such as reputation management, time management, and online privacy and includes sections on social skills, study skills, mental wellness, and overall digital citizenship. The book includes a downloadable resource kit, worksheets, and a very handy texting dictionary.

Crocker herself is available for presentations and workshops on this topic and can be found at angelacrocker.com.

– Vicki McLeod is an author, TEDx speaker, and award-winning entrepreneur. She is a business and personal coach and consultant. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or find her at www.vickimcleod.com.

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