For many people with young children or who are just starting their families, the challenge of parenting in a world that has changed dramatically from the one they and their own parents grew up in is all too real. With some voices saying you should limit children’s screen and tech time and allow them to ‘just be kids’; and others saying you should be giving them the opportunity to learn about and experiment with technology so they can develop the skills they’ll need to become a successful adult in the modern world – parenting just got a whole lot more complicated! Here we look at some of the benefits of both sides, and how to balance the two.
What will the world look like when your child leaves school?
If your child is starting primary school now, it’s a pretty scary thought that it will be time to start thinking about what tertiary studies they should opt for around 2032 – if formal tertiary education is even still the norm, of course. And if the current pace of change is anything to go by, the world is going to be a very different place. And while it’s of course impossible to say what skills are going to be most in demand, it is a safe bet that having a good grasp of technology will be incredibly important. So if you’re concerned that your kids are spending too much time on their various devices, that might make you feel a little better! Younger children have a seemingly magical ability to grasp and intuit how to use technology if they’ve been exposed to it during the formative years, so as long as you’ve taken precautions such as implementing parental control features on your devices so they don’t stumble across content they shouldn’t, let them explore and learn – they’ll almost certainly become your in-house tech expert!
While the way we teach language, verbal and written communication skills at school level hasn’t changed much over the past few decades, the way we actually communicate in the real world has changed drastically. Even in corporate business settings, written and verbal communication has become more casual and informal. Texting, instant messaging and social media platforms like Twitter encourage users to get their point across in just a few words, while at the school level kids are still composing lengthy essays. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – as being able to flesh out an idea and cover a topic in greater depth will always be important. Chances are you won’t have much difficulty getting your youngsters to embrace the shorthand, emoji-accentuated speech of the internet, but to get the best of both worlds, you want your children to enjoy books and media that requires a longer attention span too. Making time to read with your children, whether that’s from a paper novel or on an e-reader, is just as important as it’s ever been. Aside from helping them improve their reading skills, it’s a great way to bond and lead by example too. You can also take the opportunity to spark their curiosity – if you come across a word or concept your child isn’t familiar with, Google it together and find out more. Being curious and wanting to learn more about the world around them is one of the greatest gifts you can give a child in any era.
Careers in technology
While we may associate careers in tech with coding, programming, and complex algorithms, there’s actually an extremely varied range of careers available, many of them quite creative. If we take Aussie IT company Tech Brain as an example, you can already see a myriad of opportunities – from more creative roles such as web design and development to cloud computing, data recovery and backup, network administration and even employee education – there’s a career in tech to suit virtually every kind of passion and personality. Fostering an appreciation and understanding of technology and allowing your children to experiment and develop IT skills when they are young can set them up for a rewarding career as well as a stable future.
Critical thinking skills
While schools still place a lot of emphasis on getting students to learn facts by heart, a legacy of bygone times when information and books were in short supply, we’re now faced with the opposite problem – a world of information at your fingertips, not all of it true. As a parent, your role should become about teaching your kids how to tell the difference between real and fake news, how to research all sides of an argument, identify purposely misleading or cherry-picked “information”, and get to the truth themselves. If you can acquire this skill together, so much the better.
Tech can make learning fun
It’s well known that individuals learn in different ways – some being more visual, others preferring to read up or listen to lectures, for example – and one of the greatest things about today’s technology is the rich variety of content and learning apps on offer. If your child is struggling with a particular concept or subject, having it explained in a different way via an online video, infographic or talk might be all they need for it to ‘click’.
Balancing screen and tech time with ‘real world’ activities
No matter how advanced technology becomes, having a healthy body will always be important – and that means stepping away from the tech once in a while. If your child isn’t keen on sports, you may have to show a little tough love in this area or try and find physical activities that engage their interests – ideally one you can enjoy together. And hey, if firing up the Wii is the only way to get them interested, so be it!