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Growing up a digital boy

My son is going to be raised on the Internet.

It’s one of those realities of life that can only be challenged if I choose to live in a completely isolated location. Like a deserted island or hunting cabin in the middle of the mountains, devoid of wireless connections, social media applications and news stories about the Kardashians. I’m not sure which life seems more normal.

With or without.

If I chose to live without all of the above, my son might be well suited as a survivalist who can navigate rugged terrain without needing Under Armour apparel. Ironically, that would probably qualify him for a reality TV show. He wouldn’t know the story behind the names Caitlyn or Jenner. Or how to navigate a smart phone and the latest computer operating system. But he could start a fire, hunt for food in the wild and whittle his own action figures from wood and soap by hand.

I still have a few friends in Colorado who fit that bill.

My baby may only be a little older than 1 month, but I can’t help but think ahead to what life will be like for him as he grows older. That’s the visionary in me. I have plenty of hopes and dreams of wanting Will to flourish in society. I would hope all parents hold such aspirations. Like the Army suggested in ’80s-era marketing, I want him to be all he can be.

He already knows how to fight adversity.

Living in a digital world, Will is surrounded by the Internet and technology. Especially in the NICU. That of course wouldn’t be the case if we lived off-grid. But as an avid consumer of amenities that make life easier, including washers, dryers and NFL Sunday Ticket on cable so I can watch the Broncos while living in Indiana, I don’t see the off-grid life in my future. Unless there’s a zombie apocalypse.

Then I’ll be happy I once worked in the solar business.

I’ve now joined countless other first-world parents who balance our child’s exposure to the Internet with a desire to keep them safe and free from the adult realities of growing up digital. There are the scary aspects of the Internet I hate with a vengeance. Like people who use the Internet to stalk others or spread hate. And predators looking to take advantage of a simple desire to share photos of our kids growing up with family and friends who don’t live close.

And that Subway Guy.

No one likes to think about the sketchy realities of the Internet, but they exist. If I had a choice, I probably wouldn’t have my child even touch a tablet or smart phone until he’s 18. I know that’s not going to happen. I do want him to be socially aware and current with technology and culture so he keeps up with the ever-changing society that surrounds him.

I also like the idea of keeping him in this little bassinet he’s sleeping in forever.

Of course I know life doesn’t work that way. And kids grow up faster than we can find directions to the closest Starbucks from Siri. As Will’s mom, I’ll just need to find that balance of a digital world and the simple life I enjoyed while living in the Rocky Mountains. Where kids dance barefoot to reggae and bluegrass in the park. And learn to be themselves without needing to Instagram everything or be the best player on the team by age 10.

That really is possible.

As an everyday social media user who makes a living promoting content I create for the Internet, I also must be aware of my own habits that affect Will as he grows up online. There could be criticism that sharing photos of him while he fights the good fight in the NICU might expose him. He hasn’t had much choice in the matter. I’ve mostly found that his story has been inspirational for those who trust in the power of prayer and good vibes sent from a positive and spiritual place.

I’m a believer.

I know the heartfelt well wishes friends and family have shared on Facebook make a difference in how we’re all coping with daily life at the hospital. It’s simple, but true. Love and encouragement, sent online and in person, is vital in keeping the spirits up and staying positive when life is at its most difficult.

Kindness is contagious.

I’m also thankful to look back at pics I’ve posted or taken with my smart phone to see his progress. Whether they’re photos of kids dolled up on the first day of school or moving into their freshman college dorm, parents’ posts on social media are the new baby and scrap books we had back in the day. Life is certainly not what it was when I was growing older in the ’70s, ’80s and even the ’90s. As parents, we can only trust in technology and innovation that keep us, and most importantly our kids, safer on the Internet. That, or move to a deserted island.

I could handle beach life right now.

April E. Clark wonders what happened to summer. She can be reached at aprilelizabethclark@gmail.com.


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