Wednesday, June 16, 2010

10 Ideas for Connecting with 21st Century Kids This Father's Day

Fathers Day gadgets
When it comes to tried and true advice for Dads (young and old), most will agree in the importance of face time, throwing a ball, playing a sport, listening deeply and all those good things that great Dads have been doing for centuries. In the 21st century though there are some new and important ways for Dads to connect with their kids and there's no time like Father's Day to begin thinking about and implementing some of them.

Innovative educators can share these ideas with students to give to their own Dad's to provide smart ways for parents and children to connect. They are organized by idea, pledge, and some helpful resources. Dads and kids can try one or some of them and see how they can build and strengthen relationships this Father's Day and beyond.

Ten ideas for helping Dads in the 21st Century Connect with Their Kids

1-Communicate in Online Environments
I will communicate with you in your environments even if it's only you for whom I am joining these environments.

  • Today's kids are operating in online environments and parents should play a part. Whether they admit it or not, your children want to know you're around and that when you are, you follow similar guidelines to those in the physical world. For instance, if you are a parent chaperoning students at an event or watching over them during a party, you serve an important role. They know you're there, will keep them safe, and yes, occassionally do something they consider dorky or embarassing.
  • Many kids communicate on discussion boards, cafes, blogs, etc. You should know what they're saying. This is no different from when kids used to talk on the living room phone in your presence. They may be a participant or creator of these online forums. Show interest. Participate when it makes sense.
Remember, online environments are important to your children. They want you to be proud of them in virtual worlds just like they do in physical worlds.

2-Safety First
Pledge: I will help keep you safe in smart ways online and off. I will be aware of your conversations and friends and guide and advise you.

  • Here are some sites with advice for parents who want to keep their kids safe online.
    • Common Sense Media - Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.
    • Clicking with Caution - This is a unique partnership which I had the pleasure of helping to coordinate, between the New York City Department of Education, the Mayor’s Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator, Microsoft, and Reel Works Teen Filmmaking who collaborated to create powerful, peer-to-peer messages on Internet safety. Parents are encouraged to watch this program with their children as some of the contents may not be appropriate for children under the age of 12 because of sexual subject matter.

3-Provide support in establishing an appropriate digital footprint
I will encourage and celebrate your participation in your environments. I will do this by talking to you about what you stand for and how you are establishing your digital footprint.

  • In the 21st century our actions live well beyond the moment as digital interaction is captured online forming your child's indelible footprint. The lesson isn't necessarily, don't establish a digital footprint, but instead establish a digital footprint that you stand behind, one that demonstrates what you stand for, one that would help, not hinder, your academic or professional career.

    Here are some articles that give parents advice on supporting students in managing their digital footprint.

4-Lose some of your DSL (Digital as a Second Language) Accent
I will not chastise you for the new communication methods you utilize. I will respect innovation and ask you to help me learn, if only because that will better help me learn about you.
I will do my best to understand your speak, whether that be text speak or instant message speak, because it is important to me that we speak.

  • Be a cool Dad. Learn to speak or at least understand your digital native child. Learn common text talk symbols, abbreviations, and emoticons.

5-Utilize online environment to connect with passions
I will help you discover your dreams and talk to you about ways to best realize them. I will always support you in realizing your talents and pursuing your passions.

  • Help your children use online media to discover their passions. What are they interested in? Skateboarding? Broadway? Animals? Environment? Help them find blogs, magazines, discussion boards about these topics and read about and join the conversation. Support them in building their personal learning networks in areas of talent, passion, and interest. These articles provide some ideas for how to do so.

6-Play games to get smarter, develop leaders, and get fit
Pledge: I will not dismiss the games you play. I will spend time talking to you and trying to understand why you do what you do. I will work with you to look for and find games that we can play together to grow smarter or more fit.

  • Get smarter and develop leaders
    Many educational pioneers are harnessing the power of games to connect with, motivate, and engage learners in ways never before possible. Games like Rise of Nations tell players that, "The power of mankind is in your hands." That's certainly more interesting than read the chapter and answer questions at the end. Educators like Peggy Sheehy are using World of Warcraft with students to develop leadership skills and more. Future Cities is helping aspiring engineers and architects with simulation games like Sim City. Marc Prensky has written the book, "Don't Bother Me Mom, I'm Learning" and answered some frequently asked questions here.
  • Get fit
    For many parents going outside to throw a ball or ride a bike is a great idea, but work schedules just don't permit. Especially in colder months when the sunsets early or in some states like Alaska where they spend much of their year in darkness. Wii Fit is a great solution.

7-Go places
I will explore my neighborhood and beyond. Together we will learn new things and set off on new adventures.

  • Go Walking (real walking!)
    • Walk Score is a great site that let's you rate the walkability of various neighborhoods. Find a neighborhood in your area and take a walk. Take pictures of the places you visit and create an online photo album with captions about what you enjoyed at each place.
  • Go Geocaching
    • Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment. Also see this Geocaching education site.

8-Get smart about smart and dumb phones
I will harness the power of my and/or my child's cell phone to strengthen our relationship and get smarter. I will communicate meaningfully via text, voice, bbm, Twitter, or whatever medium best achieves that goal. I will ensure we both engage in respectful and appropriate use.

  • Cell phones are powerful tools through which you can learn almost anything! Embrace the power of these mini computers to connect with your children and get smarter. Here are some readings that will give you ideas for doing so:

9-Use social media to connect with your athlete child
Pledge: I will find ways to connect with my child around a healthy and active lifestyle. I will think outside the box when necessary about ways to do this.

Supporting an active lifestyle can happen face-to-face or digitally.

  • Sports provide an opportunity to acquire physical, social and personal benefits that can help children and adults throughout their lives. While the busy Dad in the 21st century may not have a schedule conducive to coaching little league, or reffing games, there are great solutions that allow parents to connect with their kids. WePlay is one.
    • Weplay
      Weplay is an online youth sports community whose mission is to enable and enhance the joy of sports for kids, families and coaches both online and on the field. WePlay provides a fun, educational, informative and safe site that allows people to connect, share, learn and have fun! There are thousands of teams on Weplay using the most collaborative team site solution available, sharing photos and videos, starting discussions, coordinating calendars and interacting online as a team. WePlay helps members connect to the sports community around them with some of the biggest names in sports including Derek Jeter, Jennie Finch, LeBron James and Peyton Manning -- all of whom played on youth sports teams. They know firsthand what all the research says, that children learn valuable lessons by playing sports that benefit them later in life.

10-Know when to disconnect to connect
Pledge: I will be present and disconnect from things that don't involve spending time with my children when we have planned to spend time together.

Disconnecting to connect does not mean disconnecting from technology.

  • Some parents today blame technology their kids are using as a reason they are having less quality time, but often little attention is focused on the effect on kids and the risks of parenting while plugged in. Furthermore, lets not scapegoat technology as the cause or distraction. Today and yesterday's Dads (and Moms) can let more traditional distractions get in the way of spending quality time with their children. Face time with children is often interrupted to answer the phone, to shush kids while you're watching TV or reading a paper, magazine, or book, to escape in another part of the house to work on a project, etc. Disconnecting doesn't mean disconnecting from technology. It means connecting with those things you can do with your children, some of it may be using technology, some of it may not be, but it is doing things together with the purpose of spending time with your children, connecting with them, developing relationships and engaging with them in their worlds whether those are physical or digital.

This post is dedicated to my fathers, George and Bruce as well as the father's of student's of innovative educators who are reading this.

Also linked to here:
Dads Reconnect with your 21st Century Kids
10 Ideas for Connecting with 21st Century Kids This Father's Day


  1. Thanks SO much for this post, Lisa! There aren't many blog posts dedicated to dads, and as a father of a 3 year old (soon to be 4), it's refreshing and much appreciated! ;)

    I LOVE #7 and #10! You are SO right that it's okay to disconnect in order to reconnect. Sometimes I catch myself getting a little too tech-centered. (I know, because my son will start climbing all over me at times, when I'm sitting in front of the computer). That's when I know it's time to disconnect from the tech and reconnect with my son. ;)

    The key is using technology to build relationships, and for me, one of the most important ones is that Father-Son relationship. ;) Everyday, he inspires me to do more and to be more.

    #7 is about going on adventures and kids and students LOVE adventures! Enjoying the ride!

    Thanks, again! ;)

    -Renny, Father and Technology Specialist, NYC

  2. When I was growing up, kids were expected to conform to adult standards and expectations. Now, the Gen Xers have changed the rules, expecting the real adults to conform to the kids' (the Millennials) standards and expectations.

    If anyone wonders why problems with families and parenting exist, it's all there. So-called "adults" don't want to lead in a traditional authoritative role.

  3. @marksrightbrain it is not about conforming to standards, but rather about parents being connected, aware, present, and involved in the world of their children whatever their age.

  4. Here's a few suggestions as to how a parent should stay "aware and present" with their kids:

    Tear the kids away from their devices, off their duffs, off the snacks, and outside for some good, physical exercise at the park, in the country, whatever.

    Forget about running around with a pack of friends from work, frat brothers, sorority sisters, etc on free weeknights or weekends. That's what you did before marrying and having a family. Stay at home so your kids know where you are and you know where THEY are.

    Eat as many meals with them as possible, preferably breakfast and dinner on weekdays, all meals on weekends. Talk to them about their lives. Don't sit there with your nose buried in some newspaper or eyes glued to the boob tube during meal time.

    It's OK not to like what they don't like. Again, it's not your job as a parent to be their buddy. I explain to my kids why I don't like what they like as far as TV shows, movies, music, etc. I'm very honest and upfront with them at all times (just like I am when I blog!)

    Know who their friends are and who they associate with.

    Do not hold double standards. Kids will brand you a fake, phony, and a fraud, if you adopt the "do as I say, not as I do" tack.

    Remind them that a household is NOT run like a democracy.

    Stop what you are doing without hesitation and listen to your kids when it's important.

    There, I've given you six steps to successful parenting and they didn't involve ONE trendy device from Silicon Valley.

    What Generation X seems to have lost is the ability to adapt traditional parenting methods to the present day. They seem to operate under some misguided apprehension that if it isn't stamped with the label "21st Century," then it's no good.

  5. Parenting, like education, is about kids conforming to standards and expectations set by authority figures.

  6. EDIT: It's OK not to like what they like.

  7. @marksrightbrain - I find it interesting that your profile name is Mark's Right Brain, because you embrace conformity. Isn't the Right Brain for creativity?

    When I read your posts, you appear much more "Left Brained" - logical, rational, analytical, and objective. (Not that there's anything wrong with that)

    Definition of conformity...
    "Conformity is the process by which an individual's attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are conditioned by what is conceived to be what OTHER people might perceive."

    Conformity can be a dangerous thing because the standards and expectations set by authority figures could be WRONG at times (even according to you)... Then what?

    The LAST thing I would want would be for my son to become a mini version of myself! ;)

    -renny, NYC

  8. Renny: go to my website or my youtube page, you'll find a balance of both.

    youtube search term: "kutvgroucho"

    To me, buying into Web 2.0 100 per cent is the ultimate sign of conformity. How many teachers do you know who are devoting blog space to attacking its motivations and purveyors? Rate them against the legions of lemmings singing Web 2.0's praises day in and day out with any hint of skepticism or suspicion.

    THAT'S conformity, Renny.

    Digital/computer tech is fine in moderation, but I'm not like Gen Xers letting it rule my life.

    If you aren't organized to a high degree you won't be employed as a teacher for very long where I live, which is quite competitive. Where I live, teachers are in such abundance it's like finding actors in NYC or LA waiting on tables looking for their big break.

  9. Renny: The title of my blog and website derives from the fact that I am left handed/right hemispheric dominant and have been all my life, long before the Daniel Pink/Sir Ken advocacy made it fashionable.

  10. Mark, it is definitely a good idea for parents to set limits for their children for the obvious reasons. However, parenting isn't just about conformity. To be a parent, is to be selfless. To be a parent, means you fight with every ounce of strength to assure that your children will thrive and succeed.

  11. Jacob: I have a hunch you are fully knowledgeable of the "old world" approach to parenting. Can you honestly tell me that the "old world" approach isn't superior to the permissive, materialistic, and over-indulgent post-modern approach?

    Think of the fewer problems parents had back then with raising their kids. Kids weren't bugging their parents every second for some new toy, because their wasn't enough money. People knew how to survive and get by with less. It made them stronger and more resourceful. Today's America is weak and flabby because they have it too easy.

    If all the computers and gadgets died tomorrow I could still teach successfully because I am not a slave to tech. I could do without it if I had to.

    The "old world" method understood the importance of parceling resources, especially with money.

    All I can say when the impending world wide depression hits in the next year or so, people will be learning the hard way.

    Then we'll see who's still yammering about cell phones and iFads.

  12. Mark, the way one raises their children is both a very personal and complex issue. Additionally, experience has shown that the parenting method(s) one uses largely depends on the specific child. I also think that each generation of experts have contributed something valuable to how we as a society parent today.

    For example, I find the increased role of the father in the modern family very encouraging. I also find Gardner’s work on Multiple Intelligences and Kolb’s Learning Theory to be very illuminating. Likewise, I have enjoyed Seymour Papert’s and Jerome Bruner’s work as well as countless others. I have also found that technology applications can dramatically improve student performance when used appropriately.

    At the same time, I find values such as “treat others as you wish to be treated” and “a penny saved is a penny earned” as timeless lessons every child should learn, practice, and live by. Additionally, I find that Thorndike and Skinner’s behaviorist approach is very effective.

    Your points about the over indulgence of technology are valid. I also found your suggestions about eating meals with the children and spending time with them in the park right on the mark. Having said that, I think as parents and educators we must always examine the methods we employ and keep an open mind to change when warranted.

  13. Jacob: I'll view the matter of raising children in the traditional mode of thinking, as a matter of what's right and what's wrong. Right is a mother and a father sharing equal responsibility, for example. Too much "wrong" is being excused by so-called "leaders" too timid to confront the issue of poor and irresponsible parenting within our communities.