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.