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"I'm cool with my kids' device use. On a few very important conditions."

Microsoft
Thanks to our brand partner, Microsoft

I’m cool with my kids’ device use. On a few very important conditions. They show me what they are doing. They have long breaks from their technology. And they teach me how to do it too. I don’t want to be left behind!

Every generation fears the impacts of technology on their kids, often because they know when it comes to adopting device use their kids will leave them in the dust. I often wonder if this happened when someone invented the pencil. Back in 1565 Conrad Gessner invented this revolutionary device. Pure graphite was sawed into sheets and then cut into square rods the graphite rods were then inserted into hand-carved wooden holders. Pencils! Did parents in the 16th century lament of the dangers of unsupervised pencil use? Did they set limits for pencil time? Were pencils seen as harbingers of doom?

Nobody wants to be the parent that stopped their kid using a pencil. Back then, pencils were the future. Today it’s technology. And unlike pencils, you can actually control these things!

Oh blunt pencil, what do I do to keep you sharp?  via GIPHY

When it comes to being au fait with computers and digital devices, I don’t want my kids at the back of the bus. I want them in the driver seat. I have never set strict limitations for any of my five kids around their device use, and none of them have developed the dreaded ‘screen addiction’. They all speak to adults. They do chores around the house. And they use their devices both at school and at home.

In fact, when my son was given a school computer and no longer had to computer share at home with my other kids, his marks went through the roof. He became a straight A student. And the arguments about whose turn it was stopped. If kids are going to use devices at school and for their whole academic career, I think it’s never too early to get them started on how to manage and use their device in the most productive and life-enhancing way.

To me it’s still like magic. It’s unbelievable that your kid can sit in their room and have access to so many resources, the most up-to-date information and ideas. I remember doing assignments as a kid, we’d use some 15-year-old encyclopedia that the neighbours had with a very limited index. I was lucky to find one source document, and unluckily for the teacher, it was exactly the same source document for her entire class of 30. Thanks to technology, kids can target and access information in a split second. They can read widely around a subject. They can use information to create their own opinions! We often focus on this as a negative with device use, but it can be incredibly powerful and be a crucial part of our young people’s skill building.

My son used his device for gaming from time to time but now he predominantly uses his computer for school assignments and to edit films. He taught himself to edit using YouTube tutorials. He’s even set up a ‘green screen’ in the garage so he can create digital effects. That’s pretty impressive for a kid who’s never been to film school. He has his own YouTube channel and makes video content. Our kids aren’t just content consumers, they can also learn to be content creators. It’s a brave new world out there, and many kids may just want to be the authors of their world via their digital device.

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I wish I had this when I was growing up. Image: AutoDesk SketchBook

My nine-year-old daughter plays Minecraft: Education Edition – I can see how creative it is for her to be part of constructing a visual landscape. It’s something her big sister Rachel does. Rachel is in Munich working as an intern for a big car company using virtual reality to innovate and design. What she does is so much like a video game you can’t believe it’s a job.

One of my other daughters is a whizz on Insta. In fact for a while her job was to increase followers for a fashion designer. Device use and technology is the future for our kids. Screens are going to be as much a part of their lives and work careers as the pencil was back in 1565. And using devices doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. It can be really creative.

I’m not a ‘Big Brother’ type of parent. I’m more of a ‘Big Mother’. That means I want to show my kids how to use this amazing technology creatively. My nine year old loves writing stories. And why wouldn’t she? She sees me on my computer most days writing my stories. I’m role modelling device behaviour for her, so why not encourage her rather than limit? Kids love using devices so rather than being punitive about how much content she watches online or how much she plays games, why not encourage creative content making? It doesn’t take long, and I can assure you that kids absolutely love the chance to engage their devices outside the classroom for their very own projects.

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So I set up some Word files for Ivy that she can use to write stories. Office 365 is free for school students, which helps. I showed Ivy how to use search engines to research ideas. And Paint 3D for graphics. She’s currently writing a book. We have a printer, so I guess she will be ‘self publishing’ in no time! And if she needs to touch up photos like this brilliant family one, well, be my guest.

Mandy Nolan
We're nothing if not creative, our family. Image: Mandy Nolan

I want my kids to be ahead of the curve when it comes to technology and I believe if they use it creatively and with my engagement and encouragement they are far less likely to be the kind of kids that lock themselves in their room for marathon online gaming sessions.

If you are worried about unsupervised screen use and you need Parental Controls, then Windows 10 devices do offer you some pretty awesome controls. You can block inappropriate apps and games. You can use web filters to block inappropriate websites. You can require kids ask a parent before making purchases at the Microsoft store. And you can set up access to content, or create screentime limits.

If you feel a bit overwhelmed – let's admit it, most of us do. Who wants to admit their kids are more device savvy then they are? Then your Windows 10 PC allows you access to requests anytime on account.microsoft.com/family! They don’t have to know you don’t know!

There’s no point being anti-screen or demonising devices. This is the world our kids will inhabit. So maybe this Christmas, why not put your child’s future under the tree?

Microsoft

Naturally, you want the best for your child and this includes ensuring they are digitally literate and are not left behind when it comes to technology.

More and more schools have a BYOD policy where students bring their own laptop into the classroom, so it is important that you choose the right computer for your child. With a Windows 10 PC, you can set screen time limits, block inappropriate websites and avoiding surprise spending!

The team at Microsoft Australia have put together a helpful guide for how to set up your child's computer to keep them safer online. Visit aka.ms/RightDevice to learn more.

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