I have been amazed (and perhaps more worried) with the amount of devices we have in our household and how much addiction it has created for kids (and adults alike). Its becoming very common for 2yr old to expect to “swipe” any screen in front of him/her and he/she expects the screen to interact back. Its getting very common to see detailed understanding & elaborate use of digital concepts & supporting vocabulary ( like “download it”, “i need this app”, “its on cloud” &”there s is no wi-fi” ) evolve very early in childhood –even before kids get into Kindergarten. 8-10 yrs–old understand (& effectively dodge) all Parental Controls technology more than their parents who actually are the end-users of it. The social pressure and convenience of owning these devices can’t be discounted, after all–they quickly help you find your favorite food joint, gives you directions to drive to it, entertains your kids as they watch their favorite cartoon while you enjoy your drink & later click a pic and post it to your social media.
Which camp do you belong to?
As an unscientific generalization, I have come to conclusion that parental responses & mindset around this topic are consolidate into 2 camps:
Camp 1: Parents who Ration Technology
Parents in this camp subscribe to the idea that technology and access to it needs to be “rationed”. The idea of rationing technology and access to it for kids may come from multiple view points like — teaching kids value of money and persistence before they new device, health dimensions of over-exposure of technology for kids (obesity, attention span issues, sleep disorders etc) or purely the affordability of the technology (income levels etc).
Camp 2: Parents who feel -“My kids are Tech-Savvy”
Parents in this camp subscribe to idea that its ok to provide generous access to technology (house hold economics permitting), they feel their kids are better off on digital world, they can navigate the digital economy faster then peers, they know how to learn and get things done quickly using technology, they feel rationing access will make them more curious & envious to get access prevented otherwise by parents of Camp 1.
Needless to say, most parents rarely fall completely in Camp 1 Vs Camp 2—we all are rational–aren’t we? so most of us will intersect in both of these groups but will skew to one of the two camps.
Well I do care very much about the health effects of technology access on kids –just like my fellow parents in camp 1 but I declare I am more skewed to Camp 2 thinking.
Camp 2 Parents–Are your kids really Tech Savvy?
Having declared that I am more of a Camp 2 parent, I still keep getting this nagging question—are my kids really tech savvy? what exactly does that means? what are the special powers or capabilities of my kids compared to their slightly tech-deprived friends from Camp 1 Parents. Well, I said to myself, my kids know how to learn from videos—from learning some elementary math from (khanacademy.org), to cooking recipes from Youtube, to learning a gaming trick. They know how to collaborate online—after all they are stuck on Minecraft playing with half dozen global gamers for hours. They know how to stay in touch with family spread globally using email, Social Platforms (Facebook) & Skype and last but not least my kids teacher calls him to fix any technology issue in his class room–SmartBoard, Prezi trouble-shooter IPad user experience issues.
I am not discrediting all these geeky things that my kids or other so-call Tech-Savvy Geek kids can do. But I am realizing this pattern of technology use in our kids is more appropriately called “consumption of technology”. They are consuming apps, videos, games, services online produced by others—mostly with economic value to creators or producers of the technology.
Converting Kids from Consumers to Producers
The idea that our Kids are merely consumers of technology and not producers is not mine. I got introduced to it in multiple ways first through this very famous 60sec video from Code.org. Later I saw this TED presentation from Mitchel Resnick creator of Scratch Platform from MIT Media Labs.
This was my eureka moment for my resolve and justification to nudge to my kids(a litte harder) to pursue & learn to code. It helped me justify & understand that all that I called as “tech-savvy” behavior of my kids is really equivalent to reading skills and merely consumption of technology. And its worth the push to make kids learn how to code irrespective if they decide to pursue it as a formal career–still one of the more economically rewarding and sort-after career—To Code for Living.
Interested in acting on this idea–join the C2P Movement–see the Projects page.