Will your children grow up in the same world that we did?

I think we all know the answer – the world really is different today than it was when we grew up.

If you are from my generation (just a few years ago!!), you’ll remember the changes. We went from changing the TV channel by hand to using a TV remote. From 8 track tapes to CDs. From hard wired telephones to cordless phones. And we started college with a word processor.

But the advances we dealt with came at a pace we could handle and for the most part, our parents could find teaching moments that helped us learn and grasp the changes. THAT IS SO MUCH HARDER TO DO TODAY. As kids, we were only at the beginning of the computer era. Today, the discoveries, advances and the application of those discoveries are happening incredibly fast and no one-not adult or child-can keep up with it all. Our kids live in a time of an incredible opportunity, but it can be a scary place if they don’t learn how to navigate and leverage it.

Recently, I had a conversation with a gentleman from Malaysia, Mr. Ken Leong. We spoke of our families and the frustrating facts of life that we all deal with when you have kids. As we spoke, I began to understand something that I can’t let go of. He told me that our children will experience as many technology advances as we did as kids. As parents, we will have similar conversations about how our kids should handle technology advances. His question to me was, am I prepared to help them to handle those changes and thrive in a tech-based world?

Then it hit me! What Mr. Ken Leong taught me is that every generation lives through technology changes. No generation is immune. And it is our job parents to find ways to teach our children how to use, but not be controlled by, the technology and tools now available to them. And there is my struggle – how do I help them succeed in a world that is so dominated by technology?

My children are 17 and 13. Over the years, I have thought about what I should teach them. Clothes, friends, alcohol, school, the list goes on. I have also reflected on the times that my parents would tell me what I should wear to school, how I should speak with adults and how to act like a gentleman. But my children have access to many more machines than we did: computers, robots, apps, smart phones and the internet of things. An endless amount of information and tools that gives them the ability to create an application almost as quickly as they dream it up.

Lately, I have come to realize that the most important tools I can teach my kids are not technical, but interpersonal. If I can teach them anything, I want to teach them to value the differences in the people around the world and how to use their voice and communicate with others. Technology is developed to serve a purpose and those purposes are determined by users. Users are people and to understand those people, we first need to talk with and understand them. It doesn’t no matter where you live in the world, the type of house you call home, or the religion you practice – none of those things will determine your pride and value. Talk to people. Learn their stories and that in turn will give you the knowledge you need to stay balanced and ahead of all the new applications of technology that are coming.
I now cherish the times when I hear myself sounding like my parents as they offered me advice that I didn’t want. And I still tell my kids to put the phones down and monitor their apps. I am learning to focus more on helping them understand how interpersonal skills will be the key to surviving in this new playing field. Be part of how your children apply new technologies so that you and they will be equipped to handle the changes that continue to come.