In today’s world of social media, What’sApp, Skype and many more means of communication, children tend to be much more collaborative about how they learn.  It’s not unusual to find your child online talking to their friends about the current homework assignment and sharing their knowledge.  If you’re from the generation that studied with your arm protecting your work, that can seem like ‘cheating’ or being lazy – but is it really?

Kids like being social – they want to hang out with friends.  Isn’t it better that they do that and learn from each other than just waste their time doing things that aren’t helping them to develop educationally?

Some people would argue that in this age of multiple electronic devices and owning a smartphone being normal from a very young age, kids are wired differently.

It’s true that most kids can watch TV, follow their Twitter feed, talk to their friends on Facebook and browse the web for useful information to include in their latest essay – and all on that computer that is in their pocket!  They do seem to be able to multi-task very effectively.  But is helping each other a good thing or should they do their own work and be judged individually?

If you’re old enough you’ll remember that presenting work for marking that had been copied from someone else was considered to be cheating – and resulted in punishment, definitely for the copier, but often for the person who had done the work too for colluding with someone to ‘cheat’.

But these days kids are all over each other’s homework – not so much copying each other’s work, but asking for input and then adding their own information.  If you could look over your child’s shoulder (without getting the death stare) while they’re on social media you’d see that it’s not all about the latest pop music, boyfriends, football, trends and games – there’s a fair amount of exchanges about homework assignments.

If, in the adult world, teamwork is critical to success in business why do we try to discourage our children from sharing?  There’s a difference between a straight copy and a collaborative approach.  If you consult with the academic fraternity you’ll find that papers that are published are increasingly by multiple authors – not just two or three, but hundreds where many people working on the same subject share their findings.

Encourage your kids to learn by sharing and you’ll be preparing them for their future when collaboration and sharing skills will significantly affect their success.