A Jedi, from the epic Star Wars films, is a warrior who fights for the greater good. Jedi are set apart and rely on a higher, internal power called,The Force to guide them in life and in battle. They possess an acute sense of the world around them and are mindful of how their actions affect the whole of humanity.
The Jedi way is an excellent premise for raising digital kids in this often-precarious galaxy of hyper-connectivity called the internet. And who better to guide our parenting — today on Star Wars Day — than Yoda, the small but mighty Master Jedi known for his wisdom?
Here are a few digital parenting tips from the master himself to help you guide your kids in living the wiser, more mindful Jedi way online.
“To be a Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan. Be a candle or the night.”
Practice digital empathy. One of the biggest challenges of parents today is teaching kids how to break through the force field that stands between them and the very real people on the other side of their screens. It’s easy to log on to an electronic device and disconnect from the reality that our words and actions online impact others in either a positive or negative way. It’s easy to view other people as photos, avatars, or game characters instead of individuals with real feelings and unique, often different, perspectives than our own.
Teaching digital empathy, according to Parent Advocate and Author Sue Scheff, author of Shame Nation isn’t always front of mind for parents who grew up in a drastically different social environment. “We can’t relate to our kids’ social lives playing out in the digital world,” says Scheff. “Therefore, we may overlook the need to teach our kids that caring, kindness, and respect extends beyond face-to-face interactions. Yes, even online – or, especially online.”
“You must unlearn what you have learned.”
Find your voice. Media, opinions, news, and faulty algorithms usher an abundance of sketchy concepts into our thinking each day. Teaching kids to be discerning about the content they consume and aligning that with their values — and not that of a YouTube or Instagram celebrity — is serious personal work in today’s culture. The real parenting challenge of our day is teaching kids to think critically about who they are, what they believe, and how to express unique, significant self in everyday life. In her book Raising Humans in a Digital World, Diana Graber, notes a 2016 Stanford study that called young people’s inability to effectively evaluate online information as “bleak” and that, “Our digital natives may be able to flit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when they evaluate information that flows through social media channels, they are duped.”
“In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.”
Unplug for health. Newton’s law of motion states that an object in motion will remain in motion until an external force acts upon it. Applied to screen time: Unless we as parents (the external force) set the limits on screen time, the scrolling, clicking, and uploading will continue — forever. In Yoda’s vintage 1977 wisdom, we are reminded that unplugging isn’t punishment, but a way to refresh, restore, and maintain one’s emotional and physical health. As anxiety and depression among youth continue to be linked to screens, learning as much as we can about monitoring, screen limits, and digital wellbeing (the belief that technology should improve life, not distract from it), is paramount for parents today.
“To answer power with power, the Jedi way this is not. In this war, a danger there is, of losing who we are.”
Avoid digital drama. With a little help, kids can learn how to sidestep much of the digital drama online that tends to spill over into real life. Teaching kids to be positive, trustworthy, empathetic, and refuse to take part in cyberbullying begins with parents who practice those same standards online (kids are watching). Other ways to dodge the drama include using your mute button, balancing screen time, staying out of online arguments, and thinking carefully about the tone of your posts and comments.
“You think Yoda stops teaching, just because his student does not want to hear? A teacher Yoda is.”
Parents: Never quit teaching. This last bit of Yoda wisdom is for especially for parents who feel overwhelmed and under-equipped to raise a digital Jedi. Your kids are not always going to want to hear your input on their online behavior or your warnings about staying safe — so what? A teacher Yoda is. A parent you are. Be encouraged — you’ve got this, and you are the original Jedi Master with future Jedi to guide. Keep learning, guiding, and molding the next generation even when it gets tough. Be unyielding to cultural standards and Jedi-fierce in your commitment to keeping your kids safe and healthy in this digital universe.