I recently spoke at a conference on the risks that youth face online and found myself using the term 'embedded' to describe their relationship with technology. Why embedded? Simply put, their lives can't be separated into an 'online' or 'offline' state, but rather as always on and constantly connected. They live in the Digital World. This is a reality that we, as adults, have created through the rapid adoption and wide-spread use of connected devices, but a concept I don't believe we've fully embraced in terms of practice or infrastructure.
What do I mean by that? Specifically, while we've physically created this always on world - our homes are networked, our schools are wired, and our children are connected; our thought process and approach to personal responsibilities and safety are still very 'online' and 'offline.' Why are we still differentiating? The expectation of knowing and doing right from wrong doesn't alter through the use of technology, nor does personal safety or parental involvement.
The Internet has been mainstream since the mid-90's and has only become more ingrained in our lives through portability and ease of use. Yet, I find we are still discussing how to protect our children at a somewhat basic level. Overcoming this persistent lag will take the realization that we, as adults, must live in the digital world (we can no longer just visit or stay out altogether).
To embrace this mindset, we must embed those once Internet-specific actions, educational efforts and messaging into our everyday lives and the lives of today's children as we have the technology. Let's challenge ourselves - as parents, educators, and others who have a positive impact on young people – not to distinguish 'offline' from 'online,' but view it as one world. Why struggle with determining how we are going to fund or find time to teach our kids online safety when we should be teaching them how to be safe – aren't they one in the same? The structure is there - we parent, we educate, we monitor, we guide, we instill values – let's just tweak the infrastructure so to speak to reflect our digital world.