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amber daugherty

We live in a digital era. It can be argued everything is the exact same as it was 10, 15 years ago, that we've just added more screen-time to our daily lives. But there are some important – and subtle – changes that aren't all positive.

There's now less of a focus on teaching children how to cursive write in schools, and while you might think, "So what? I learned how to cursive write and I don't do it on a regular basis," there are some stunning drawbacks to this.

First and foremost: signatures.

Signatures are our identifier. They are the passwords that unlock our banks, that sign our bills, that prove that we are who we say we are. And they require a basic, working knowledge of cursive writing. Those intricate loops and delicate swirls are pieces of a key we all need to open vaults we have chosen to store important things in.

An article in the Toronto Star highlights this growing issue: Children who aren't learning how to cursive write are unable to form their personal signature.

"I do a lot of stuff on the computer," Lukas, 14, told the Star. "But I guess it's weird (not to learn any cursive), because it turns out I have to sign my name on some things."

Lukas couldn't sign his name when applying for a passport, something his father was shocked about.

Ontario curriculum no longer lists cursive writing as mandatory, but as an option for students to communicate, thrown into a list alongside printing and PowerPoint presentations.

Brought up in a world pushing hard for digital-first, all the time, students don't understand the importance of creating something that is uniquely theirs that doesn't come in the form of code. They aren't being taught to value that. It's surprising, particularly because there is such an emphasis in the world placed on brand creation. "Everyone is their own brand," we hear.

So we all create our own websites, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn profiles, and some of those vaults our valuables are stored in can be accessed digitally, too – banks, for example. But we may be setting ourselves up for digital despair: Accounts are hacked into every day, because, as much as we'd like to believe it, the Internet isn't as secure as we'd like to think.

Just last month, four computer hackers in Britain were handed lengthy jail sentences after organizing cyberattacks on the CIA, Sony Pictures, British National Health Services and others. They posted the personal information, including credit-card details, of millions of people, online. And there's a raging debate still happening in the United States over why exactly the National Security Agency has been collecting records of phone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens.

A signature is something that is uniquely ours. It is something we have created, that no one else can replicate (nefarious motives aside) in true likeness. An Internet password is none of those things. By neglecting to teach our children the value of cursive writing, with which they can create their own physical mark, are we setting them up to have their digital identities stolen, with no real, hard-copy ones to back them up?

We risk moving into an age where we all take on online personae – anonymous, floating heads, entrusting password-remembering sites to hold the keys to the things we value most, as we try different combinations of capitals letters, numbers and exclamation points to keep the hackers at bay. Let's not lose that piece of ourselves that once was our permission, our safety, our original brand.