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.