Parenting Digital Children/Youth in Diaspora/by Rev. Wambui Njoroge, M.Sci
Article No. 3 in a series/Read Article No. 1 by Mary Kiriba-Know what your C/Y are doing on the Internet & Article 3 by Rev. Wambui-Dangerous Mobile Apps. Both Articles published by Kenyan Parents in USA.
Welcome to the Digital age. You may not like it. You might not know a lot about how to use it. But your Children/Youth (C/Y) do. C/Y in this context refers to School Age Children, especially from Grade 3 to High School. That is how far your parental influence and authority will go in USA. However, we say, once a parent always a parent. Your influence and impact is for a lifetime. In a way parenting will now continue beyond your home and school. Just remember that you are truly the most significant person in the life of your C/Y. Trust me when I say, if you don’t take trouble to monitor children and to supervise youth, you will miss investing in the most significant family relationship. I am especially concerned with investing in Generation Z. These are C/Y born between 1990s and 2000. Some are about to graduate from High School. I have been working in various capacities with Generation Z for the last 15 years. I am amazed and impressed by these digital natives and their use of internet and smart devices. They are growing up in a world that is purely defined by internet, smart phones and devices or gadgets. For a person like me I am quite fascinated by technology. I first learned how to write the name “WAMBUI” by drilling it on the dirt, under the African Skies. Yet today I use a computer as a tool for teaching as well as for ministry. Though I am a digital immigrant, in 2019 I cannot imagine a world without internet. Can you?
“Train Up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). Parents might understand this to mean Spiritual things only. But how about education, learning social skills, academic pursuits and the like? Are these not in the domain of training? If they are, then Parents are encouraged to learn technology that is helpful and useful to parenting. Early this year, I met such parents in Richmond VA. It was a youth retreat where I was invited as a guest speaker. I want to highlight some of the best things I learned.
We cannot blame, criticize or overly be sensitive about the use of technology because, “Each generation should set its hope anew on God.” So this generation is setting its future on God by using technology. You on the other hand, plan to leave them a legacy of faith. They are using technology tools to learn, including learning the Word. They might not carry the Old Black Bible in King James version. They might prefer to use Smart phones and other digital devices to study and to take notes. Be careful when you see them using smart devices in your gatherings. Let us help them maximize their learning and enrich their lives.
If you have been in a workshop on a Sunday morning service with me, then you know not to take out C/Y before I preach. I might start with “Who wants to be a Millionaire question?” Then I might end by remarking, “I believe if you stay in school and obey your parents, you will be millionaires.” As for me, I might not be counted in the millionaire group because I enrolled in college as an adult, married with children. But that also changed this year. During the Q/A session some C/Y encouraged me that it is possible. It is not too late they said.
to be teaching in Diaspora, the Q/A session is a favorite. It is the only time the audience owns. It has very rich content as different people share various approaches. Together our formal and information knowledge merges and blends so well. Where the rubber meets the road, this is it. The Question to C/Y was:
How Can You Make Money as a Middle and High School Student Without Breaking Any Rules?
Youth #1: Middle School: My mentor is just 14 years old. He is a quiet young man. Sometimes his mother worries. You might mistake him for having issues. I believe he is a Talented and Gifted Youth (TAG). When in a group, he likes to keep to himself. He doesn’t like wasting time and rough playing. He strikes me more like an adult in a young person’s body. When I met him, other than sharing his name, he had very few words. He did, however remind me of many students I have had the blessings of observing who fit in TAG. I am good at trouble shooting why a student is not learning. Why is a student failing.
Why is a student misbehaving. The have the same teachers, the same curriculum, the same time so Why is John failing and Kamau is passing?
The reason he was so quiet amazed me when we had Q/A session. I begun by asking: “How can we make extra money when we are in School?” It turned out that Youth #1 is making more money weekly than some adults. He is 14 years old and he is good with CODES. He has opened his own YouTube channel. He has an advantage many of us adults don’t have. His peer group likes him and encourages him. They are all computer savvy. They know how to utilize the internet, and they “like and subscribe” to his channel. How would you like to have 3000 followers for your YouTube Channel? That is how he is making his money. Of course, if you want to be like him, you have to learn coding. I signed up with him so that he can mentor me. Not in coding, of course, but in areas of my strength. In order to do this, because he is am minor, I have to talk through his mother. I had to get her consent to write about him. Future communications will be 3-way. I have not yet started to work on the assignment I was given.
Youth #2: He is 16 years old. He buys things at whole sell and offers them at his school at a Retail price. Example is a bag of Mixed snacks for let’s say $6. A bag contains 25. Sell each at $1.00. Do the math and see the profits he takes home. In order to be allowed to do this in school, a student has to have good behavior, near perfect attendance, except with excused absences and has to make good grades. He has also to be obedient to his parents. Now this is a business entrepreneur in the making. He has the same advantage of his peers. He doesn’t have to do endless market segment, target audience and so forth. He reminded me of how hungry we used to be in Middle and High School in Kenya. We had our business student and classmate Mutongi at Kajiado REB. He was a day student and we were Boarding students. Every day, he used to bring a chunk of Sukari Nguru and sell small pieces to us. There is not a day that he had any Sukari Nguru left over. He was one of the most popular students in the school. Tulikuwa tunamuombea heri jema. He never got sick throughout the school term. This then means we had an abundant supply of our favorite snack.
Youth #3: Is Autistic. Many educators know that Autistic students are in many instances gifted and talented. It takes a caring teacher in cooperation and collaboration with parents to identify the genius in a student. This is what his parents have done and it is commendable. He is also a quiet young man. One day he surprised his mother by asking her to take him to the Store’s toy section. Since he was already grown, Mama was wondering, “Sasa Mtoto wangu anataka nini?” Armed with toys and a Cell phone, he creates games that young children enjoy. He too opened his YouTube Channel and like #1 and #2, he has a following larger than many adults who are reading this article. His peers “like and subscribe” to his YouTube channel. Companies that cater for the school population notices and pay to advertise on his channel, same as Youth #1. With their parents supporting them, I can see these 3 Youths getting quite wealthy early in their lives.
During this retreat, the Pastor, her daughter and the Youth Pastor decided to give the parents in their Church a break. She reserved a retreat facility where she took all the young people for Spring break. The event was excellent. It was wonderful- and full of creative endless healthy activities. It was well supervised. The Pastors daughter taught the youth on New Age Spirituality and how to decode it. Oh parents, we are too soft and we are so behind in some things. I have seen in some Churches youth being taught as if they are babies. No wonder they have no interest in mediocre lessors. You cannot blame them. Myself I prayed for more grace… for all of us digital immigrant parents. Thanks be to God for Teachers who understand this culture. Apparently, you are not rising a Kenya American C/Y. You are raising an American C/Y, no wonder there is a cultural conflict in Diaspora compounded by a digital divide.
Investing in C/Y: Beloved Diaspora, the only way to close the digital divide and alleviate cultural conflict is to invest in our C/Y. Invest in the things that matter to them. There is a Pastor who instead of enlarging the sanctuary started 2 services. Then Used the extra cash to build a gym for C/Y. If we don’t invest directly into the lives of C/Y they will leave us with our buildings when they are 18 years old. As one Youth Pastor put it, “Don’t invest in things that you wish to leave behind for your children…Invest directly into their lives, invest in what they can use as they grow. It is the best way to pass on your wealth.” For example, plan meaningful activities and lessons for your C/Y. Pay for them to attend to attend a Christian conference with other youth – one that you approve. Become a chaperone. Above all, be physically present at home as often as you can. Be accessible.
Are we investing in Plots in Kenya? Some C/Y overheard parents talking about buying a plot in Kenya. Then they asked, “Is that where you want to be buried in Kenya?” This is because a Plot in Kenya means a family is buying a burial plot in USA. Now you can talk about cultural conflict in real words. We invest in Higher Education, Doubles and Triples? Not that investing is bad, just remember “Each generation should set its hope anew on God.” (Psalm 78:7). As this generation sets its hope, does it include your hopes and dreams?
Am just saying pay attention.Notice that every child behind a computer is not wasting time or uploading photos and chatting with strangers. Some are doing tremendous things and using their recreational time well. Encourage talent and creativity.
Resources: From My Notes: Now that School is in session for the Fall Semester
Included with Article: Short videos of some of the activities we engaged in during the break.
Next? Article #4/What to do if your child/youth is not learning.