4 Ways to Raise Critical Thinkers in the Digital Age

With so much information on the internet, here's how to build your child's media literacy skills.

Tech-savvy kids today are constantly awash in an onslaught of unfiltered information. How can parents help them at every stage of development to cultivate an ability to safely explore the world around them with an understanding of how their loyalties and biases affect how they assimilate information and form their beliefs?

Julie Bogart, author of “The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life,” discussed this topic at a recent ParentEd Talk sponsored by Chicago Parent as part of a series of talks with parenting experts. She offers several tips on how parents can raise critical thinkers in the digital age.

Be self-aware

Understand what the factors are that shape how you think. Bogart suggests taking an “academic selfie” — a term she coined — to flip the camera lens and notice what’s going on with ourselves when we’re confronted with an idea or interpretation of information. We may notice some biases that control the way we think. As a result, Bogart says, we can encourage self-awareness for our kids by asking questions rather than declaring answers based on our own perspectives.

Ask, “Says who?”

Any time your child reads a story or watches something on TV, identify who is telling the story and sharing their perspective. Because all learning comes through the lens of the storyteller (historian, scientist, researcher, etc.), that person shapes the interpretation. Bogart says that critical thinking includes the ability to identify the storytellers, as well as those whose stories are not being told.

“One way to grow critical thinkers is to give your child as many narrators as possible of the same data or story so kids have the opportunity to be exposed to a wide array of ideas,” Bogart says.

Understand your loyalties

Both adults and children are susceptible to taking on the beliefs of those who are around them — whether it be friends, family, a religious organization or a sports team. When we learn, we filter each idea through a series of invisible checkpoints that help us retain these valuable community memberships. Bogart says it can be helpful to identify what is at stake while considering an idea — will you prove valuable to your community or violate an idea?

“The people that we feel most loyal to have more to do with our beliefs than we realize. It is very difficult — but necessary — to set aside that identity piece and be more objective,” Bogart says.

She notes that part of the journey in raising critical thinkers is to help your children realize the impact that their communities have on them.

Engage in experiences

While reading is the primary way we learn, Bogart says that having experiences are proof that we have acquired a deeper level of comprehension, which enriches how we think. Experiences offer something we cannot get from reading, and having these experiences can reshape our beliefs. For example, visiting a museum reveals what reading could never deliver — it opens up another world entirely.

“Reading is efficient, but it’s also very safe,” Bogart says. “Let’s get our children — and ourselves — out of our comfort zones.”

Looking for more parenting tips from experts? Register for the remaining ParentEd Talks with one ticket!

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