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There’s no question that you want to prepare your girl to succeed in the world. And in today’s tech-driven times of smart TVs, robotic vacuums, and self-checkouts at the supermarket, raising your daughter to be a digital leader is definitely a smart move. But what that means, and what you need to do to instill digital leadership in your girl, may be far different than you think.
What does digital leadership even look like?
Spoiler alert: logging hours on Instagram or Minecraft—although fun—isn't going to transform anyone into the next Silicon Valley whiz kid. Why? Because being comfortable using the latest technology is only one part of digital leadership. Surveys of CEOs and hiring managers have revealed that simply being able to code or operate emerging technology doesn’t open the doors it used to. Instead of simply focusing on what a person knows about tech, companies are looking for people who are digital leaders in a more far-reaching, deep way. These people not only understand the digital world but also use their knowledge to make advancements and improvements to society. Today’s digital leaders need to innovate and think critically and creatively, adapt to a quickly changing world, connect and collaborate across teams, and have the confidence to inspire others.
Could your girl be a digital leader?
Believe it or not, there’s a chance that your girl is already well on her way to becoming a digital leader! A recent study by the Girl Scout Research Institute showed that girls are actually ahead of boys when it comes to digital leadership by using technology to benefit themselves, their communities, and their worlds by creating, connecting, and innovating. Unfortunately, where they’re coming up short is in the confidence department. “Parents tend to be more cautious and hand-hold girls in the digital world while giving sons more freedom to explore and learn new technologies on their own,” says Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald. “Having adults step in to ‘help’ all the time can make girls question their abilities and can, in many cases, even hamper digital interest and learning.”
Three easy ways to help her be a digital leader
If you’re sold on the importance of digital leadership but feeling a little intimidated when it comes to helping your girl develop it, you’re not alone. “The level of technology, and the access to it, is so different for this generation than it was even 20 years ago,” says Dr. Bastiani Archibald. “A lot of parents and grandparents might feel out of their comfort zone when it comes to encouraging digital leadership in their girls, but the great news is that no one has to be a tech genius to raise one.” Try these tips and watch your girl flourish!
1. Take a big step back
First off, it’s important to get rid of the assumption that all screen time is wasted time. Tech can actually empower your girl to try new things, connect with people who share her interests, and enrich her education. Still, you need to know your girl is safe when she’s online, so knowing which apps she’s using and even checking in on her online presence once in a while is important. But be encouraging and give her the space to try new things, figure out how different platforms work, and connect and collaborate with like-minded kids online. When you monitor, but don’t micromanage, she’ll end up overcoming hurdles on her own and find more confidence in her abilities than she’s ever had before.
2. Ask her to teach you
Have your girl show you how to play her favorite video game, ask her to walk you through the new messaging app she uses (ask questions about privacy settings!), or plan an afternoon for her to teach you basic coding skills. Taking the lead and being seen as an expert will give her a big confidence boost while also boosting her comfort levels when it comes to sharing her knowledge with others. The bonus? You’re setting the stage for ongoing conversations about what happens online, which will likely become more important as she grows up and her life becomes more complicated.
3. Encourage her to think differently
Innovation is a major component to digital leadership, but you don’t even need a computer, tablet, or smartphone to develop this quality. Digital leaders need the creativity and optimism to see possibilities where others see only problems. Help her flex her innovation muscle by asking simple questions at the breakfast or dinner table. If she was going to build a new type of car, what would make hers different from the ones that exist today? If she was going to design a high-tech clothing line, what are some things she’d want the clothes to be able to do? Dreaming up new ways of using technology only requires time and a bit of old-fashioned imagination!