When is a stick not a stick? When does a stick, a simple element in our natural environment, become a tool? Become technology?
That moment when you pick it up and use it to write a message in the dirt, or engrave a message in a tree trunk. That moment when you pick it up and stick it in the ground to use as a sun dial or time keeper. That moment when a sturdy branch provides walking support. That moment when a branch is slung across the shoulders and used to help carry a load.
stick = pencil, scientific instrument, tool, shelter, protection, communication
That's when it becomes technology.
techne ~ science of craft
logia ~ art, skill, cunning of hand
branch of knowledge
that deals with the creation and use of technical means
and their interrelation with life, society, and the environment
computer-mediated technologies which allow people to view, create and share information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression
via virtual communities and networks
As we have wandered through the paths of history from ancient to current times, it has been interesting to note the place and value of technology in various cultures and time periods. How people groups have communicated, educated, remembered, worked, and lived. Their habits and their tools. In our own day the technology of social media and the internet has made a big impact on how we learn, live, work, and communicate in our community.
Our own family's journey with the internet and social media has been slow and gentle, which in hindsight I am grateful for. My children enjoyed a childhood that was filled with dolls, cars, blocks, figurines, art, sand, flowers, trees, pets, birds, riding bikes, swimming, tv, books. We made friends with our neighbours and talked over the back fence. When we wanted to know something we went to the library, asked friends and family, read books, and watched tv shows of interest. They learned to look people in the eyes and read body language. They learned to run, jump, and climb. They learned to speak in sentences (mostly).
A desktop computer entered our home when our eldest daughter was 8. She was a curious girl and we allowed her to 'play' on it. She taught herself how to use the various programs on the computer and developed an interest in the workings of the computer. As we had dial-up internet, online programs and apps were not available to us. As the years rolled on, this eldest daughter then taught her siblings what she knew about the workings of our computer and what you could create with the help of various computer programs.
Fast forward 11 years and now each member of our family has their own laptop, ipad, and mobile phone. We engage in various social media platforms and the blogging world. Dial-up is of the past and internet access is almost a given, like bread and milk. ICT is woven through every part of our family and community life of work, learning, and relationships.
In reflecting on our journey I've discovered 4 principles we followed to navigate these technological waters.
1} Learn together
When my eldest daughter expressed an interest in social media I found myself at a crossroads. I chose to dive in and explore various social media and blogging platforms myself, to learn how they worked, to learn negative things to look out for, and to learn how to protect myself on the internet. When I had learned enough, I gave her the opportunity to choose her platform and explore. We continued to learn and grow together, and I was just enough ahead of her in knowledge and experience to be a guide and be able to lay down foundational rules that fit with the online activity she was engaged in.
Ongoing, open communication is important at every stage of the parent-child relationship. Sharing ideas, experiences, asking questions, trying new things, discussing social media trends and whether they are neutral, beneficial, or harmful, making decisions about what kind of online projects and interaction add a positive dimension to our life and relationships and which do not are some of the things we have discussed together. We began with shared accounts as this allowed the children freedom to explore while letting friends and online users know a parent was actively supporting and present. From about the age of 14 onwards, they slowly began developing their own accounts and I needed to make my own account and connect with them via that social media platform. This gave them independence, while allowing me to remain connected and present. From about 17/18 onwards, they are given the freedom to explore broader online and social media contexts independently, while maintaining open communication about the new platforms.
3} Creating social habits
Shared accounts and my early active presence on social media platforms gave both my children, and those they interacted with, some natural boundaries. It allowed me to discuss and guide my children in the habit of positive social interaction in the online environment. What you share, what you don't share, the words you use, and how you express ideas matter. We often consider the questions: Should Mary have shared that information? Should Henry have responded in that manner? What would be a more appropriate way to share that thought? What message is that picture sending? Would you share that in a roomful of people? Is this true, good, beautiful?
4} Setting limits
Part of developing positive social habits online is the ability to set limits. The more I engage with online social media and internet-based communication the more I realise the importance of staying firm in setting personal boundaries and taking regular off-line breaks. Online activity should not leak into and interrupt every area of life. Time limits, daily routines, and the conscious decision not to engage with social media when you are socialising with people are ongoing decisions that are important to consider. When our children were younger we had simple rules like no computer/internet until certain study projects and chores were completed for the day; 30 minute time limit per child per day; no social media from 6pm. These rules change slightly in different seasons and as they grew and life changed.
Overall we have found social media and technology to add a positive dimension to keeping connected with friends and family, exercising personal wisdom, and expanding our world of learning both academically and socially.