Gen Alpha- Born a Digital Native
The Generation Alpha or Gen Alpha as experts claim, have emerged as the rightful successors of the Gen Z. Being born and having grown up under the ubiquitous influence of the internet, the Gen Alpha can rightfully be called as Digital Natives.
For my two year old niece, making a video call via the much acclaimed WhatsApp is literally a ‘child’s play’. While the millennial in me struggled after switching over to an iOS, my student from grade 2 gilded with ease through the sea of instructions into teaching me its usage. Technology was undoubtedly taking over encrypting all walks of human existence.
The Generation Alpha or Gen Alpha as experts claim, have emerged as the rightful successors of the Gen Z. Being born and having grown up under the ubiquitous influence of the internet, the Gen Alpha can rightfully be called as Digital Natives. With time emerging technological tools, easy availability of gadgets especially mobile phones has surely brought the world closer to us all.
We can access information about almost everything- the weather at the peak of Mount Everest or the algae at the bottom of the Pacific; debate incessantly about the existence of multiverse; learn grammar as well as mathematics; reduce complex equations to minimal numbers in a jiffy and the list would be endless. However there lies a sad truth beneath all these hullabaloo. With every click and whoosh the Gen Alpha is moving away from human relationships. At times I wonder what it would look like if humans were replaced by robots. While there could be a loud laugh over a toast with children mimicking robots in reality that would be a scary situation.
The accelerated technological advancements, the increase in usage of online media, and the reduced cost of mobile technology have opened a communication factor that has sharply affected involvement and relationships between parents and children. It is but a matter of fact that parents find it an easy solution to let their child be seated with a tab or a phone after a long day at work. While we rightfully call the present generation as ‘natives’ of digitization, the parents remain digital ‘immigrants’.
The growing digitization calls for the parent to revamp the parenting structure completely. In order to keep themselves abreast with the latest trends in technology, the parent is struggling to overcome digital illiteracy. Like fuel to the fire came the pandemic. Schools all shut, lockdown imposed all over, cut off abruptly from the outside world both children and parents resorted to the idiot box on their palms. That was their classroom, office, merged with the comfort of the couch. There lies complete truth in the statement that the new age parent is a fast learner with platforms like YouTube ensuring that no one is left behind.
We rightfully call the present generation as ‘natives’ of digitization, the parents remain digital ‘immigrants’.
The parent has turned a student too as they learn not only from the internet but also from their children. To combat the online monotony educators across the globe went way beyond the regular presentation. Teachers recorded lessons, created online games and even designed applications to help students learn. With teachers followed the parents. Parents picked up ways to monitor the actions of their child while in a classroom and even discovered ways to monitor usage of the internet after school hours.
With growing digitization, parents are facing issues like increased screen time and addiction to screen. Experts advise that apart from getting tech savvy parents need to spend time constructively with their children. Rather than browsing through unnecessary content, the parent can indulge in a learning experience along with the child. That can involve learning some new methods of creating a presentation or answering a questionnaire to develop skills.
Another matter of acute importance is the fact that these young children grow increasingly impatient if they are taken away from their device. Rather than saying a harsh ‘no’ parents can carefully curate their screen time with age appropriate and relevant content. The growing use of the internet also happens to pop another million dollar question – ‘How safe is the internet?’ Bullying has turned digital too.
Children have been observed to form groups against one or few and post demeaning messages or make memes. The child albeit away from physical harm is exposed to being harmed psychologically. It is tough for a parent to deal with this or control the situation. A strong monitoring could help curb such situations. The parent needs to keep a check on where the child is found spending more time and that could be tallied with the work assigned by school.
There lies no contradictions to the fact that the modern child will be affected by technology.
Children are often found shying away when they are asked about their activities on the internet. The role of a parent becomes vital therein. It is the parents’ responsibility to create a non-judgmental environment for the child to be able to share his/ her viewpoints.
Talking more freely about online activities will foster the parent-child bond as well. That would not only boost the child’s morale but also ensure that his home is his safe space and he can confide in his parents as and when the need arises.
Research and studies state that parents often find technology to be daunting. That makes them step back from learning new things and hence alienate them from their children. The parent needs to research and surf through the web and even can set up parental controls that would thwart the child’s access towards unwanted content.
With the changing times, the parent needs to find a median between the classic authoritarian and child-centered permissive parenting. Studies project not only the balancing of both but also reinforces the fact that more than a parenting style it is the amount of time spent by the parent with his child that makes the difference. The world is evolving and so are we human beings. Thus parenting roles need to be redefined.
As parents we need to ensure that our children grow a safer relationship with the internet and that their usage of the internet is more constructive and improvises their knowledge rather than calling for any trouble. It is essential for parents to understand the importance of their mediation, the necessity of spending time with their children even if they play a video game. The task is complex and complicated and experts around the globe are researching the effects of digitization on the young ones. But the role of a parent would continue to remain indispensable regardless of the age and times the human race would pass through.
Anindita Banerjee is National Geographic Educator; Microsoft certified Educator (MIE Expert) with demonstrated history of working in both academics and administration. Fluent in online teaching methodologies, development and reframing of content in accordance with the digital blended learning. Imparting education, using the knowledge and skill that has been learnt and in line with the developing scenario of education; maintaining the quality and base, towards a professional growth.