Passing It On

Face to Face with the Born Digital

By Judy Slattery | Mar 03, 2014
Judy Slattery

Recently, in a Creative Retirement Institute (CRI) class, I learned a baby born in the last 10 years is considered “born digital.” This means the baby’s life will be very different from the life of a baby born earlier.

In class it was suggested we go to YouTube to see these born digital babies, happily swiping iPads, and then looking confused when the book or magazine they swipe did nothing. One video is captioned, “Baby thinks magazine is an iPad that doesn’t work.”

I take an occasional class, with CRI or the Edmonds Senior Center, because, like many seniors, I know, I don’t want to be a total, technical dinosaur. My peers and I have mastered e-mail and the Internet, but rely on grandchildren and young friends to help us when things go wrong.

We stoically give thanks for gifts of iPads, Kindles, smart phones, knowing our children give us these things for their own convenience, because “it’s just easier” to have us in their loop.

But mostly, my senior friends and I worry. We worry over the constant texting and self-absorption we see in the younger generations. We wonder if they ever look up from their devices, if their fingers are ever still. We wonder if they know how to carry on a conversation, if they know what color their friends’ eyes are?

We must allow them their reality and we need to accept it. But we can teach them how to accept our reality, too. There is room for both worlds on our planet.

It’s been proven those who read fiction develop empathy and become happier people than those who do not read fiction.

Any child old enough to have eyes and ears is old enough to be held on our laps and read to. Young children notice everything. It’s their job – they are learning about the world they are born into.

If you love the story you read to them, they feel the love. They associate your voice with that love, and they learn to love the characters you read about. When the baby you love has finished with the iPad, pick him up and read a real book to him. Make it a habit, something you do together. Talk about the pictures. Enjoy turning the pages together. Enjoy being together.

Read about true friendships: Pooh and Piglet, Frog and Toad, George and Martha, Bert and Ernie. These friends care about each other. They accept each other as they are. Their friendships have lasted through generations.

Children who absorb these values early develop lifelong empathy. Facebook and Twitter will not erase these values.

We seniors grew up loving books. We can pass this on. It doesn’t have to be either/or. Our children and grandchildren have boundless capability, empathy and iPads. They can do both.

Would Pooh and Piglet text? Maybe.

Judy Slattery is a retired teacher and early childhood advocate. Her writings include a manual for early childhood education providers.

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