I was at the weekly meeting of the Kiwanis club I belong to this morning, listening to a presentation about the College Bound program within the Oceanside School district. During the course of the presentation, the topic of kids and their use of technology and social media came up. We were reminded that as parents we are in control, and should take away the phone, turn off the media, etc. I sat there sighing and nodding. Yes, my kids are on the phones too much.
At the same time, in my professional career, I’ve spent the last several years crafting an IT strategy to enable employees to operate regardless of where they are located. There are still pieces to put in place, but we’ve been making good progress. The largest challenge I face is adoption of some of the capabilities. For instance, we have Skype available, but how can I drive adoption of the technology? Colleagues I’ve spoken with have indicated how empowering such a tool can be. One person I spoke with has no gone entirely remote as they are actively online with video and chat all the time. There is little advantage to being in the same office. Now, that is an extreme case, but a number of companies (and their employees) could probably benefit from less time commuting and coming into an office that can, at times, be quite distracting and wasteful. However, in my particular case, operating online in this way is entirely foreign. Most of the folks in my company are not comfortable operating in the virtual world to such a degree. They can handle email (the bane of all IT managers), but texting? IM? Video chat? Not at all.
So, after the talk this morning, the dissonance of these two situations struck me. Perhaps we are really looking at this the wrong way. Kids are drawn to the online world. Yes, they can do wrong things there. They can waste time. But that happens at my office as well. In fact, there are some folks I work with who love to walk into my office to tell me something about their personal lives that I didn’t ask about, usually right when I’m in the middle of something. What if, instead of limiting the time kids spend on their devices, we teach them how to use them to become effective collaborators, and to become more efficient at accomplishing the “important stuff.” In some ways I see that happening without adult intervention. My youngest loves creating slime (if you have a 12 year old you probably understand, if not, be happy). So, she works with her friends via FaceTime and SnapChat to develop new recipes and variations. She is collaborating in a way that I can’t get my colleagues to. I plan on asking her how often, if ever, she does homework with her friends via FaceTime. My 20 year old takes a fair number of online classes at her university. I wonder how often she is in the same boat.
I throw this out there as a conversation starter. I may think about this some more and decide that I’m completely wrong, as I’m not convinced that I’ve got this right either.