What life looks like as a kid in 2017

RACHEL DOHERTY

Social worker, teacher and the founder of Tweens2teen

Do you know what challenges children and teenagers face in this 21st Century life? Here’s 5 things you might not know about the child of 2017.

I’m a bit of a history fan and often marvel at how kids coped during the long years of World War I and II. To somehow cling onto a childhood in the midst of such tragedy, although I know for many they didn’t.

It just reminds me that children are incredible survivors.

And our kids are no different.

“We get strength and encouragement from watching children.”

HAYAO MIYAZAKI

Five things you should know about life as a kid in 2017

You only have to think about what life was like when you were a child to realise how much the world has changed. Maps and land-line phones are almost a thing of the past. Most kids go digital at university and don’t even carry a pen.

If you’re needing help keeping up, here’s 5 things worth knowing about the modern world of kids:

1. Life requires them to be adapters

Technology is changing life at an ever increasing pace and our kids have to keep up with it. Most people find change hard to cope with. Our kids will need to be chameleons when it comes to embracing technology and engaging in work.

From their earliest years, mellenial kids will need to be able to adapt. Jennie Shulkin wrote on the Huffington Post about four survival skills kids need to develop as adapters:

  • Being active rather than passive by challenging change, but also moving into it
  • Have a positive perspective on change when it’s out of their control
  • Realise that nothing lasts forever
  • Being self-reliant and not looking for other people to make things right

2. They are reinventing multitasking

In a world wanting more productivity, our kids have learned to focus on speed not accuracy. They’ve also picked up some advanced thinking in how to manage many streams of content at once. That’s why they watch YouTube or flick through Facebook while doing homework.

We don’t know what their world of work will be like in 15 or 20 years, but I know how much mine has changed. I’m not in a hurry to stamp out their version of multitasking when it could be a vital skill in the future.

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso

3. The pace of life is overwhelming

Some kids will buckle under the current pace of life. Schools have more in the curriculum than ever before. After school activities are more structured these days. More parents are working.

We have to watch how they’re coping and help them work through any sense of overwhelm. At the end of the day, every person is unique and there is a unique spot in this world that will feel just right for them. It’s up to the grown ups in their life to help them find that place.

4. Their digital and physical worlds are one

I’ve found a few childhood friends on Facebook, but my kids are staying in contact with hundreds.

Unlike previous generations, our kids only know a world with smart phones and connected technology. Their digital presence is part of their everyday life.

5. They are discerners not just consumers

Ten year olds know that those shonky calls from Microsoft are a scam. They’re more switched on to the the ploys of marketing than their grandparents. Thanks to the power of Google.

They’re looking to know why and how before they’ll engage with anything. Including school.

In the past, people assumed that children were passive learners and users. Today’s kids are showing they have advanced skills in judging and weighing up options. This is going to make them different students, different workers and different buyers.

What does all this mean for the adults in their lives?

Looking at that list can be overwhelming. But it’s also going to be exiting as children and teenagers grow up and take on the leadership and care of the world.

Here’s 7 things we can all do to help kids cope with this modern life:

1. Let them be old-fashioned kids

Caution and safety can rob our kids of the chance to play and challenge themselves. Kids need to climb, jump, tumble and hang to grasp the limits of their body, and sometimes a broken arm will be part of that.

2. Make time to listen

Kids need help to unpack the information that surounds them and their feelings. More than ever we need to be there to answer their questions and give a different perspective.

3. Don’t shut down their ways of doing things

They’re preparing for a different world of work. They’ll need to adapt to changes quick and be on the lookout for shifts in the market. What might look wrong at the moment, may be just what they need in the future. Think what Uber has done to taxi driving and you get some picture of what our kids are going to experience as workers.

4. Help them to cope with stress

The frantic pace of life isn’t easy for a lot of kids. We need to look at how we can help them to opt out and slow down, rather than encouraging them to keep up. Adult life is a “choose your own adventure”, but we need to be willing to help our kids make some choices earlier. It’s time to talk more about how we cope with stress and model a balanced life.

5. Learn from them

They are incredible. They pick things up quick and can pull others apart to figure out how they work. Just as they need our wisdom and experience, we need their knowledge and confidence.

6. Teach them about personal branding

In the 21st Century, our lives are much more open and visible. Social media documents all the steps, big and small, good and bad. Our kids have to develop the skills to manage their personal brand like never before.

7. Be open to their acceptance of difference

The internet has given today’s children and teenagers an inclusive view of the world. They don’t separate people by colour, gender, race, ability or sexual identity. They’ve grown up accepting difference as the norm. Embrace it!

It’s an exciting time to be a kid, but not without it’s challenges. But then, when hasn’t it?

What do you think? Is life as different for kids today as I think? I’d love you to share your thoughts.

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