10 Ideas for Connecting with 21st Century Kids This Father's Day by Lisa Nielsen

10 Ideas for Connecting with 21st Century Kids This Father's Day by Lisa Nielsen

Cross posted at The Innovative Educator

When it comes to tried and true advice for Dads (young and old), most will agree in the importance of face time, throwing a ball, playing a sport, listening deeply and all those good things that great Dads have been doing for centuries. In the 21st century though there are some new and important ways for Dads to connect with their kids and there's no time like Father's Day to begin thinking about and implementing some of them.

Innovative educators can share these ideas with students to give to their own Dad's to provide smart ways for parents and children to connect. They are organized by idea, pledge, and some helpful resources. Dads and kids can try one or some of them and see how they can build and strengthen relationships this Father's Day and beyond.

Ten ideas for helping Dads in the 21st Century Connect with Their Kids

1-Communicate in Online Environments

Pledge:I will communicate with you in your environments even if it's only you for whom I am joining these environments.

  • Today's kids are operating in online environments and parents should play a part. Whether they admit it or not, your children want to know you're around and that when you are, you follow similar guidelines to those in the physical world. For instance, if you are a parent chaperoning students at an event or watching over them during a party, you serve an important role. They know you're there, will keep them safe, and yes, occasionally do something they consider dorky or embarrassing.
  • Many kids communicate on discussion boards, cafes, blogs, etc. You should know what they're saying. This is no different from when kids used to talk on the living room phone in your presence. They may be a participant or creator of these online forums. Show interest. Participate when it makes sense.

Remember, online environments are important to your children. They want you to be proud of them in virtual worlds just like they do in physical worlds.

2-Safety First
Pledge:I will help keep you safe in smart ways online and off. I will be aware of your conversations and friends and guide and advise you.

  • Here are some sites with advice for parents who want to keep their kids safe online.
  • Common Sense Media - Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.
  • Clicking with Caution - This is a unique partnership which I had the pleasure of helping to coordinate, between the New York City Department of Education, the Mayor’s Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator, Microsoft, and Reel Works Teen Filmmaking who collaborated to create powerful, peer-to-peer messages on Internet safety. Parents are encouraged to watch this program with their children as some of the contents may not be appropriate for children under the age of 12 because of sexual subject matter.

3-Use social media to connect with your athlete child
Pledge:I will find ways and to connect with my child around a healthy and active lifestyle. I will think outside the box if necessary about ways to do this.

Supporting an active lifestyle can happen face-to-face or digitally.

  • Sports provide an opportunity to acquire physical, social and personal benefits that can help children and adults throughout their lives. While the busy Dad in the 21st century may not have a schedule conducive to coaching little league, or reffing games, there are great solutions that allow parents to connect with their kids. WePlay is one.
  • Weplay
    Weplay is an online youth sports community whose mission is to enable and enhance the joy of sports for kids, families and coaches both online and on the field. WePlay provides a fun, educational, informative and safe site that allows people to connect, share, learn and have fun! There are thousands of teams on Weplay using the most collaborative team site solution available, sharing photos and videos, starting discussions, coordinating calendars and interacting online as a team. WePlay helps members connect to the sports community around them with some of the biggest names in sports including Derek Jeter, Jennie Finch, LeBron James and Peyton Manning -- all of whom played on youth sports teams. They know firsthand what all the research says, that children learn valuable lessons by playing sports that benefit them later in life.

4-Lose some of your DSL (Digital as a Second Language) Accent
I will not chastise you for the new communication methods you utilize. I will respect innovation and ask you to help me learn, if only because that will better help me learn about you.I will do my best to understand your speak, whether that be text speak or instant message speak, because it is important to me that we speak.

  • Be a cool Dad. Learn to speak or at least understand your digital native child. Learn common text talk symbols, abbreviations, and emoticons.
  • Text Messaging and Chat Abbreviations
    A Guide to Understanding Text Messages, Chat Abbreviations, and Twitter Messages

5-Utilize online environment to connect with passions
I will help you discover your dreams and talk to you about ways to best realize them. I will always support you in realizing your talents and pursuing your passions.

  • Help your children use online media to discover their passions. What are they interested in? Skateboarding? Broadway? Animals? Environment? Help them find blogs, magazines, discussion boards about these topics and read about and join the conversation. Support them in building their personal learning networks in areas of talent, passion, and interest. These articles provide some ideas for how to do so.
  • Engage Me or Enrage Me! (Pt.1)
  • Engage Me or Enrage Me! (Pt.2)

6-Play games to get smarter, develop leaders, and get fit
Pledge:I will not dismiss the games you play. I will spend time talking to you and trying to understand why you do what you do. I will work with you to look for and find games that we can play together to grow smarter or more fit.

  • Get smarter and develop leaders
    Many educational pioneers are harnessing the power of games to connect with, motivate, and engage learners in ways never before possible. Games like Rise of Nations tell players that, "The power of mankind is in your hands." That's certainly more interesting than read the chapter and answer questions at the end. Educators like Peggy Sheehy are using World of Warcraft with students to develop leadership skills and more. Future Cities is helping aspiring engineers and architects with simulation games like Sim City. Marc Prensky has written the book, "Don't Bother Me Mom, I'm Learning" and answered some frequently asked questions here.
  • Get fit
    For many parents going outside to throw a ball or ride a bike is a great idea, but work schedules just don't permit. Especially in colder months when the sunsets early or in some states like Alaska where they spend much of their year in darkness. Wii Fit is a great solution.
  • Read Wii Fit: 10 Things Parents Should Know

7-Go places
I will explore my neighborhood and beyond. Together we will learn new things and set off on new adventures.

  • Go Walking (real walking!)
  • Go Geocaching
  • Walk Score is a great site that let's you rate the walkability of various neighborhoods. Find a neighborhood in your area and take a walk. Take pictures of the places you visit and create an online photo album with captions about what you enjoyed at each place.
  • Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment. Also see this Geocaching education site.

8-Get smart about smart and dumb phones
I will harness the power of my and/or my child's cell phone to strengthen our relationship and get smarter. I will communicate meaningfully via text, voice, bbm, Twitter, or whatever medium best achieves that goal. I will ensure we both engage in respectful and appropriate use.

  • Cell phones are powerful tools through which you can learn almost anything! Embrace the power of these mini computers to connect with your children and get smarter. Here are some readings that will give you ideas for doing so:
  • What Can You Learn From A Cell Phone? - Almost Anything - Marc Prensky's article that explains how to use the 1.5 billion computers already in our pockets to increase learning, at home and around the world.
  • Ideas for using cell phones in education - Various posts on harnessing the power of cell phones from The Innovative Educator blog.

9-Provide support in establishing an appropriate digital footprint
I will encourage and celebrate your participation in your environments. I will do this by talking to you about what you stand for and how you are establishing your digital footprint.

10-Know when to disconnect to connect
Pledge: I will be present and disconnect from things that don't involve spending time with my children when we have planned to spend time together.

Disconnecting to connect does not mean disconnecting from technology.

  • Some parents today blame technology their kids are using as a reason they are having less quality time, but often little attention is focused on the effect on kids and the risks of parenting while plugged in. Furthermore, let's not scapegoat technology as the cause or distraction. Today and yesterday's Dads (and Moms) can let more traditional distractions get in the way of spending quality time with their children. Face time with children is often interrupted to answer the phone, to shush kids while you're watching TV or reading a paper, magazine, or book, to escape in another part of the house to work on a project, etc. Disconnecting doesn't mean disconnecting from technology. It means connecting with those things you can do with your children, some of it may be using technology, some of it may not be, but it is doing things together with the purpose of spending time with your children, connecting with them, developing relationships and engaging with them in their worlds whether those are physical or digital.

This post is dedicated to my fathers, George and Bruce, as well as the fathers of the students of the innovative educators who are reading this.

Lisa Nielsen is an educational administrator and permanently certified teacher with more than a decade's worth of experience working in educational innovation at the city, state, and national level. She currently serves as Technology Innovation Manager for the NYC Department of Education. Ms. Nielsen is a Google Certified Teacher, International Edublogger, International EduTwitter, and creator of The Innovative Educator blog, website, learning network, and wiki.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of the NYC DOE.