The age of technology has raised many questions for parents. How young should children have access to technology? What should they be using it for? And how closely should I be monitoring my child when they are using technology?
This article will answer those questions and more. Before we get started, keep in mind that teaching technology to kids does not always involve giving them access to the Internet. I understand that many parents are a bit scared of that. And even though I am very enthusiastic when it comes to tech, I certainly understand why that is. Bear in mind, though, that there are many other applications that can be used as learning tools. In today’s blog post, we will take a look at them and find out the best ways of teaching technology to kids.
Benefits of Teaching Technology to Kids
As parents, we dread our children growing up. It would be wonderful if they stayed young and innocent forever, but that is simply not the case. Rather than dreading it, our time is much better spent preparing our children.
As we live in a world where technology advances every day, it is necessary for us to teach our children to adapt to this world. By teaching them to use technology responsibly, we can prepare them for what is out there. It also gives us the chance to teach them boundaries and guidelines—before they learn to navigate the world of technology themselves.
Additionally, children who do not learn about technology are likely to fall behind their classmates. The Internet is full of knowledge for those who know how to look for it. It will help with research projects, studying, and more.
Finally, being familiar with technology helps children in the future. There are many jobs that have become obsolete because technology does the work. Technology is among those fields that have guaranteed job security. At the very least, it is a requirement to have some background in many job fields. Children who learn about technology earlier have a better foundation to build on.
The Key to Introducing Technology: Timing
As a general guideline, children should not be introduced to technology excessively before preschool. While your phone or tablet might be a great distraction, it takes away from your child’s interaction with the environment. These interactions are critical to development because they help shape your toddler’s perception of the world and help them learn critical social skills and self-confidence and awareness.
Has your child’s pediatrician ever asked how much screen time they were getting each day? This is because every minute kids are watching television, they are losing a minute that they could be exploring and learning about the world around them.
This does not mean that technology cannot be useful in learning. However, a young child is going to learn a lot more about letters by doing flashcards with their parent than they would be watching a television show. This is because it’s a more enriching experience—one that involves human contact and interaction.
On the other hand, I still believe that allowing your kids to get in touch with tech and having fun with it, even if they are still toddlers, is not necessarily a bad thing. Not at all, as long as YOU are responsible with it! In fact, I have written a whole article about how parents can responsibly enjoy video games together with their kids. You can find it here if you’re interested.
Level 1: When You Are Ready to Introduce, Start With a Tablet
With our world becoming more and more digital, being tech-savvy these days is more important than ever before. It’s a highly important skill set for our kids to develop and thrive on. One of the most natural ways to get in touch with tech these days is using tablets and smartphones. The touch interfaces that these devices offer allow even kids as young as toddlers to independently use them with ease. The fact that you simply use your finger to tap an item and the device responds immediately makes it so easy to learn and use.
Play Learning Games
For toddlers and preschoolers learning essentially means learning through play. So the major purpose that kids at this age have for technology at a young age is to use it as a supplemental tool for learning. There are many websites that offer learning games for kids.
The key to success with these games is helping your child through the games. You do not want to set them loose, because they may click without worrying about if the answer is right. Instead, sit with them and walk them through the game and how to do each step. Then, watch them excel and give them plenty of praise when they do.
At a younger age, you may want to focus on color-combination games, memory games and the like. Later on, you can include quiz games and more complicated puzzle games into the mix.
Another cool thing you can do with your toddlers would be to download a drawing-app to your tablet and then draw pictures with them. I know, many will argue that using real pens at that age is more beneficial, but please bear in mind that I am not suggesting to replace real-world pens with virtual ones, but rather to add this concept on top. It helps your kids to naturally integrate the concept of technology into their daily lives!
You can also download some kind of photo collage app. Then take photos of you and your kids, mix them together, add stickers etc. That’s a lot of fun for both of you and also highly creative!
Level 2: Move on to a Desktop Computer
One of the most fundamental concepts regarding technology is the difference between hardware and software. Working on a desktop computer gives your child a clear idea of the hardware required to make a computer work, including the tower, screen, mouse and keyboard.
If you still own a “classic” desktop computer, that’s perfect. If you only have a notebook around, that will work, too. The important idea here is the clear difference between a computer and a tablet in terms of hardware and software: A computer with a mouse and keyboard simply helps your child to understand that there is more involved in tech than touching control surfaces on a tablet’s screen. That there is REAL technology involved and not some kind of magic. It also helps to bring the level of complexity across.
Teaching Basic Instructions
Now, start with basic instructions like how to turn the screen and PC tower on and off. Show your child how to use the mouse and keyboard in a respectful way. Let them move the mouse around the screen and type letters into a typing application.
It is important to establish this respect for the computer early-on. It will make them more comfortable with it and makes it less likely that they will abuse it in the future. You should always sit with them while they are navigating the computer, even if they seem to be doing okay.
Your child is ready to move on to opening applications once they have a solid grasp on how to use the mouse to move around the screen. Teach them to click on applications to open them. It is best to have an account that has been set up specifically for your child. Place large icons on the desktop for the programs that you want your child to have access to. Then, teach them how to open different apps and close them before starting to explore.
Level 3: Do Some Fun Research
Before you jump into teaching your child about the games on a computer, show them the amazing abilities that it has for learning. Let your child ask you a question (something reasonable, of course). Then, help them use the computer to find the answer.
There are search engines designed especially for kids, like Kiddle or KidRex. The queries bring up kid-friendly websites where your child can explore. They are a great place to start for information. You may also be able to find videos to explain different concepts in a fun way. Science and history are both good concepts to explore, but the possibilities are endless.
Level 4: Have Fun With DIY-Projects
You made it to level 4, which is awesome. Let’s get started with some advanced stuff, shall we? The ideas I’m going to introduce here are something that will probably not only your kids learning new stuff, but you as well!
Learn to Code
Code? No, stop, don’t leave! Hear me out. German entrepreneur Frank Thelen once said: “Code is the most important foreign language to learn.” – And I could not agree more. Knowing how to code means understanding how to instruct computers and machines and will set your kid up to contribute to the world of tomorrow!
And it does not have to be hard at all. Projects like MIT’s Scratch, for example, allow you to get started for free and use visual interfaces to create simple programs on your machine. The fun part here is to learn TOGETHER with your kids, rather than teaching them something that you already know. Imagine that: You and your kid sitting down together, experience something new, rather than you just teaching them. I LOVE that idea!
Crossing the Border: Bringing your Code to Life
Once you have mastered the basics, you can go ahead and use your new skills to bring cross the border between the digital and the real world: Physical computing! Opportunities here involve devices like the Arduino Micro Computer or Lego’s Mindstorms Systems. Both can be used to learn about real-world applications of your new skillset: Imagine you and your kid bringing a robot to life with the code you have developed together.
While writing that I realize how I cannot wait for my son to grow up to that age where I can really start sharing my passion with him 🙂
Boss Fight: Stay Involved and Set Guidelines
With all that being said, there is one important thing to always remember, I believe: Technology time should never be used for “electronic babysitting”. It can be tempting, especially since it is easy for children to get absorbed into a game for hours on end. However, your interaction with your child is critical to keeping them safe. It also sets expectations for the future.
Limit the amount of time that your son or daughter spends on the computer. Set a timer if needed, to reinforce the idea that technology is only one part of a well-rounded day. I’ve recently purchased and reviewed the ideal timer for scenarios like this: The Time Timer Plus. If you haven’t already, please make sure to check out my review here.
Always try to interact with your kids when they are playing games. Guide them and if they do not need guidance, be there to offer encouragement when they do well. Try to share their passion and discuss their media experiences with them.
Children who are not given the opportunity to interact with technology after their preschool years will fall behind their classmates and possibly in life. By teaching your child to interact with technology in a safe, respectful way, you change the way that they see technology. Even so, regular monitoring is important.
I wish you TONS of fun as you introduce technology to your child in a responsible way. Personally, I am really enthusiastic about tech and the opportunities it creates in our world. I hope I will be able to bring that across as I continue my journey of teaching technology to him. On the other hand, I want to make sure that my son also gets a reasonable feeling for the pitfalls and risks that technology may bear.
Finally, I would like to know what YOU think about my approach? How do you tackle the issue of teaching technology to kids? What are your favorite methods, tools, apps and devices? What were the best tech-teaching experiences you had with your kids?
Thanks for reading!
P.S.: If you REALLY want to level up your parenting skills and get rid of all the power struggles that can stand between our kids and us as moms or dads, then make sure to read my FULL REVIEW of “Positive Parenting Solutions” HERE.
I feel that the use of technology with kids should have its time and place. They are great for developing intuitive and creative thinking, but it shouldn’t replace the basic motor skills in our daily lives.
This worries me because just this morning, my niece – who’s 8 years old – was ‘complaining’ that she doesn’t know how to wash her water bottle. Something must have gone wrong in school or home education because this is basic stuff. She has no problem navigating herself through the iPad though.
Hi Cathy. Great comment, thank you so much! I totally agree that basic motor skills and “physical toys” should never be replaced by digital toys and education, but they can and should co-exist. The story you told about your 8 year old niece is interesting. I’m wondering if she really doesn’t know how to do it or if she’s just trying to be smart and claims that she can’t do it so that someone else will do it for her 🙂 I’m 34 years old! Ask my wife! I try that all the time. Of course, she is smarter than me and calls me out every single time 🙂
I agree when you teach your children about technology for a strong base foundation about it especially if you expect them to be good at that area, but just like me and you we change towards time, but at least are giving an exellent example and that you know you did your best as a parent.
That’s certainly true! And it’s also why I believe it is very important for us as parents to stay “on top” of things and up to date in terms of tech. I think it is important to stay in the role of the “teacher” as long as possible. Our kids will outrank us and get better at tech sooner or later anyways 🙂 Personally, I would like my son to be at least a teenager before that happens!
All the best,
Your article is wonderful and I do not even regret reading it. I quite agree with you that if we do not give our children the opportunity to interact with technology after their preschool years will fall behind their classmates and possibly in life because there is no way one can successfully face the future without interacting with technology as we can see now automation and technology is taking place almost in every aspect of our life.
On the other end, as parents sometime we have the fear that when our children interact with technology they may be introduced to unethical materials and destroy their future too. What is your thought about that?
Hi titoze and thank you for your positive feedback! I’m happy you liked my article and took the time to share your thoughts. Thanks for that! 🙂
Regarding your question: I totally get what you mean and I certainly would not want my son to get in touch with unethical content on the web. I think that is a valid concern! I think the key to success here is to hold your kids’ hands while learning about tech and not leaving them alone. Let’s take a look at how we teach our kids about traffic and getting around safely: We would take our kids, explain to them what various signs and traffic lights etc. mean. Then we would take them outside and practice together with them, right? Point out mistakes and guide them in the right direction until we feel that they are comfortable enough to do their first steps all by themselves. And then, at some point, we have to trust them, and let them go.
Yes: There are dangers out there. No doubt! But not allowing them to use the entire media (be it streets and traffic lights in the example above or the internet in case of technology) at all will certainly not help them to develop a healthy relationship with it. It would probably even lead to the opposite!
That’s how I look at it. I hope that answers your question.
All the best and much love,
Wow, you nailed it. Thanks very much for your reply on my question. I really agree with you. All the best and see you another time!
Wow. As usual I so enjoy reading your post. This one is probably my favorite as I really like how you address the issues of Technology and kids. You offer a great verity of doing things with the knowledge that most parents and like me grandparents can use to interact with our kids.
Hey Granny Blogger. Thanks so much for yet another kind and helpful comment. I’m always happy to see you around and welcoming you back! I’m really happy you enjoyed my article. If you know any parents (or grandparents) who you think could benefit from it, please feel free to share it with them, will you? You know how they say: Sharing is caring 🙂
Funny I should run across this article today. I was just sharing my thoughts on how we integrate technology into our kids’ lives, but, like you said, we don’t use it as a babysitter.
Now that they are older, they have already done the Scratch programs through school electives and now each have their own computer. I can tell when their friends come over, that our kids know a little bit more about how technologies interface than many of their peers, so I think we are setting them up for success.
Next step, building a computer from scratch, which I’m sure is going to happen sometime this year.
Hey Christina! Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. It’s so cool to hear how you set your kids up for tech success. It kinda shows me that I’m on the right track with the ideas I suggested here and that I am trying to teach my own son as well 🙂 The building-a-computer-from-scratch idea sounds awesome. What do you mean by that? Are you going to get the individual components (mainboard, cpu, ram, graphics adapter etc.) or do you want to really build a “physical computer” from scratch with individual logic gates etc.? That sounds pretty advanced, if that is what you’re planning!
I totally agree about embracing technology when it comes to teaching kids and I could see that they stimulate curiosity at an early age. What worries me is the lack of monitoring from parents or parents who rely too much on electronics without knowing the consequences it would cause like social awkwardness or the lack of motor skills.
I am already seeing that in my young nieces and nephew so I think parents are the one who should be more responsible in taking charge of technology influencing their children’s lifestyle.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I couldn’t agree more. Raising kids these days requires us parents to be as media lterate as we can get! That certainly is key. But even if parents haven’t managed to develop a good media literacy yet, I think being a parent and raising your kid in this digital world is the perfect motivation to learn more about it and develop a deeper understand.
All the best to you and your loved ones,