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Digital Bar Mitzvah Speech



“What age is the right age?” In the analog era this question was easier.  All of the big adolescent milestones had clear age limits.  No one got a drivers license until sixteen, there was always the threat of an actual person checking ID at ‘R’ rated movies and curfews were often based on when physical places closed for the night. 

In the digital era, age limits are more confusing.  There is no clear, “right age” to allow kids to download, buy or signup for new technologies like cell phones, social networks and video games.    Sure, there are rating systems and recommendations, but they seem out of sync with reality when so many kids are entering middle school with phones, 11 year olds are playing “M” rated video games, and pre-teens are signing up for Facebook accounts.  It seems that there is only one thing we can depend on when it comes to age in the digital era -- the age at which kids adopt new technologies keeps getting younger.

The problem is that setting limits based strictly on age for something as flexible as new technologies is almost impossible.  After all, the same cell phone that might get a kid in trouble is also the one that keeps him or her out of trouble when it comes time to check in with mom or dad.  Plus, rating systems are not well built for a world where there is so much content being produced from so many different sources.   If a digital age limit were to be effective, it would have to be a game changer.  Something that puts families on a common page (even if that page is digital) and more clearly defines what it means to act responsibly in a digital community.

‘Coming of Age in a Digital Culture: Today I Receive my first Smart Phone,’ is a metaphor for what it might look like to take an age old tradition and apply it to the digital world.  It takes the coming of age ceremony and re-imagines it for the digital era.  Think Byte/Bit-Mitzvah, iQuinceanera or Digital-Communion except remove the religion and add a healthy mixture of what was wholesome about the analog era with what is awesome about the digital era. 

Imagine that at eleven years old the kid in this video asked his parents, “Can I get a phone?”  The answer was, “sure, as soon as you go to digital school.”  Every Saturday for the next six months, he learned the skills necessary to be a responsible member of a digital community. The process culminates on his twelfth birthday with a ceremony and after delivering this speech in front of his friends and family, he is given his first phone and a Facebook account. 

Cultures throughout human history have known the importance of clearly marking the transition from childhood to adulthood as a way to both keep kids safe and promote healthy development.   In a very short period of time, digital technologies have rewritten the roles and rules of children and adults in this culture.  With all of these changes maybe the updating the coming of age ceremony for the digital age is just what we need?


Digital Coming of Age:  The ByteMitzvah Speech

It seems like twenty years ago that I first started preparing to become part of the grown up digital community but then again if it was twenty years ago my smart phone would come with a backpack. (laugh)  Really it was only six months ago that I first started preparing to receive my iPhone and Facebook account - Which will be handed over to me in just a few short minutes (laugh and point).   I have to admit that this whole thing seemed lame to me when my parents made me start going on Saturdays to digital school and I only went because my friends were there, because of all the candy we got at the Walgreens afterwards and so that I finally get my phone, but now I’m glad that I did it. I’malso greatful to my teachers and I actually feel ready to be a digital adult (awww)

For my bytemitzvah project I decided to focus on how to build a kinder digital community.  I made a video about digital citizenship and .  I really appreciate the help of our digital mentor Jeff for always making our classes more fun and for helping being a great team leader and You better accept my friend request!

To my little sister.  No you can’t borrow my phone but when you turn 12 you will be standing up here for your bit mitzvah and I’m so excited to bug you when you are trying to earn your final online offline bar. But really, I do love you and thank you for always being around to talk to.   To my best friend Sam thanks for doing the digital street smarts bar with me, we were an unstoppable team.  My parents of course never had a byte or bit mitzvah, you were busy learning to use a chisel to write on flat stones when you were my age but still you were really supportive in helping me earn my bars and I love you.  

Like I said, my parents never had a byte or bit mitzvah so it’s kind of funny to become an adult of a community where the adults haven’t learned to be adults yet.   If you guys need some pointers just let me know.  Thanks everyone and if you need me, just send me a text because I’m now a digital adult!


“We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”


What we need is a game changer, a completely new way for families to be in a position to better manage new technologies.   A chance to hit the reset button and allow families to more thoughtfully integrate new technologies. 

How do you know when is the right time to buy your child a cell phone?  When is the right time to allow them to have a facebook account?  What about a game rated Mature?


that is that much more true for kids.  time on digital social networks has an impacts us psychologically, phsyilogically and relationally.  ology,  and that this has both upsides and downsides. We also know that childhood development and it’s time to start thinking about ways to make these places better for lives of young people

helped plant, a digital garden at my school

he is our digital team leader. Pause before and

instead of digital school byte mitzvah school

I’m so excited to bug you, when

Close camera angle  My parents of course


jason brand, jason brand lcsw, digital bar mitzvah, digital bat mitzvah, digital bar mitzva, digital bat mitzva, cyber bullying, cyberbullying, video game addiction, coming of age, bytemitzvah, bitmitzvah, digital revolution, kids and technology, kids, technology, facebook, iphone, can I get a phone, family conflict, psychotherapy

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