As I stood in my kitchen on this snow day, I observed a flourishing new behavior in my 19 month old son: mimicking. I do not have school today, but this morning, I tried to steal work moments at my laptop set up on a counter. My husband was working from home due to the storm and had set up shop with his laptop on the livingroom couch. During this time, our son traveled from room to room with various toys “curiously” checking in with both of us. At one point, my son pushed over a stool next to me and “asked” if he could come up to join me. Once he was in his seat, I handed him his toy laptop, and without any direction or prompting, he began to tap away on the buttons. I went back to typing an email and checking my Twitter PLN, but snuck glances at him. He continued to tap away and even stopped several times to wave at his refection in the “screen”. After about five minutes, he “asked” to get down. Initially, he put the toy laptop on the kitchen floor and started to scamper away ; however, he then turned around, picked up the laptop and placed it on the edge of the table. Satisfied with its placement, he ran to his new adventure.
This whole sequence of events got me thinking about a Facebook post that a friend wrote over the weekend. She was looking for thoughts about whether or not she should let her nine year old have a FB account. Probably about 75% of the people were commenting “No” to her question, citing that it was too easy for kids to get into adult topics or dangerous. The people who responded “Yes” or were in favor of kids having Facebook accounts gave advice on privacy settings and making rules for the child. My response was that I’m always in favor of an opportunity to teach the appropriate and responsible way to do things.
In this blog, I have recommended and explained many tools and services that are at our fingertips. These tools can be used for good or evil. They can help us to solve problems or create issues. A steak knife can help us eat food, but it also can be a weapon. A swimming pool is a lot of fun; however, it’s very dangerous if you don’t know how to swim.
Seeing my son “play” with the laptop today showed me what I’ve already taught him about laptops. They are communication tools (his typing and then waving at the screen as if he was in a Skype call which BTW he does each night with Grandma). His gesture of going back to pick up his laptop and placing it on the table instead of leaving it in the debris of his discarded toys demonstrated that he’s been paying attention to what we do with our tools when we are done: Always putting them in a safe place. He knows that we value these tools.
Of course, a little while later, he did take his “laptop” down and step on it on purpose. After a reminder that we don’t use feet on laptops, he did pick it up and place it back on the table. Just because he’s growing up digital doesn’t mean my little monkey doesn’t need some guidance! That’s what I’m trying to impart here. Parental/Teacher modeling and “conversations” about the technology and the world will have the greatest impact about how it’s used. We shouldn’t make it a forbidden fruit.
I’m looking forward to helping my son (and my students) become careful, responsible members of our connected society.