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by Barrie Bramley,  Chief Imagination Officer (wherever he is and whatever he’s doing) and Conference Speaker delivering perspectives around the Future of Work.  He’s a dad and curious human being. He can be found digitally at www.barriebramley.com

I was the dad that many parents looked to for advice on ‘what age to give your child a cell-phone’? I speak on trends and technology and most importantly, how all these changes impact people? My answer was always the same…..”I’m going to hold off as long as I possibly can. Preferably until they’re 23 or 24.” I was a hero to some for holding such a strong line.

Well that all came crashing down when my 12 yr old daughter had finally built an unbeatable case for a cell-phone.  I had ended up sounding like my mother when I had wanted that radio-controlled boat. For comfort I keep reminding myself that I may have lost on the cell-phone, but I’d won on the ‘I wont sound like my mom’ front.

Watching my daughter and her new ‘BB blankie’ has been the most fascinating experience I’ve had in a long time. Here are some of my observations:

●      When you read that they don’t go anywhere without their phones, they’re not exaggerating. My own daughter won’t let me phone her on her

Credit: middleville.onslow.org

Credit: middleville.onslow.org

phone in case she misses a BB message or an important Status Update.
●      There is a direct correlation to phone usage and the development of ‘sophistication’. I remember reading an article that described the difference between maturity and sophistication. The author was suggesting that rural children often grow quickly in maturity (looking after siblings and cattle, etc) and urban children often grow quickly in sophistication (make-up, media exposure, etc). His view, and I agree, is that urban children are exposed to too many things before they are mature enough to deal with them.
●      The most fascinating observation, though, has been watching her ‘network’ She went from a conversation circle of maybe 5-8 to one of 30-40. And while much of this engagement is confined to a digital space, it works itself out in the real world.  She’s gone out more, done more, seen more of her friends, more regularly.

The bottom line is that this is all a gigantic experiment. There are no answers, no rule books, no 7-habits, no 13 fundamentals, and no silver-bullet. Here’s what I do know:

●      My daughter needs a guide to hold her hand through this. I can’t leave that role to her friends.

●      I can’t afford to behave in a way that forces her conversations underground. I will respect her space and privacy, and keep working at being an interesting friend that she wants to engage with.

●      I’ll find ways to gently point out the impact of messing up in a digital world. It is, after-all, the same set of rules as a physical world.
●      I will work hard to grow and understand the world-view of the digital native. I will Facebook, and Tweet, and Foursquare, and MXit, and Blog…. even when I’m not sure what I’m doing or why I’m doing it? I will eventually understand and I will stay relevant in my daughters world.

Good luck, and remember, the force is strong within us : )

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