Are you stalking your kids using Technology?

Image Source: Wikipedia creative commons (public domain)

C2PKids Movement may very well be an equivalent of providing your kids weapons against all those Digital Parents who use the same technology to stalk their kids online. However, that’s not a sound argument to keep your kids digitally ignorant and in fact more exposed to some of the bad things we all worry about. Code-awareness definitely improves your ability to dodge online booby traps camouflaged in various form-factors (benign looking link, email attachment, game, video or free music download)

I had been long reflecting about effects of making kids code-aware of the technology that they consume—finally decided to blog about my PoV on this topic. My personal two cents are that latest best practices around digital parenting are hardly about “restriction” using parental controls but more about creating conversations. I think most of us have realized that restriction is impossible –so why not join them and have a conversation :). For digitally savvy and educated parents its all about discussing the new opportunities that technology is creating for them in context of new risks & bad temptations that kids are faced to judge about. After all, the idea of future school administrators scanning your cyber-profile before offering you admission in your coveted school is fairly recent one. That the idea of online reputation being as critical asset as your credit score is probably what the latest conversation all about and we need to have that with our kids. Virus attacking and destroying my child’s cheap laptop hardly bothers me. Online bullying (where your kid is a target or where your child is a source), stealing personal information, kids posting something that they later regret are the hot-topics.

Here is a great resource from GreatSchools.org. This has some really nice and summarized list of additional resources for both digitally savvy and digitally ignorant parents. Read through it–they have done a great job and most of my digital parenting wisdom is influenced from their work.

I lost my soccer ball on Moon

Copyright: wikimedia commons public domain
Img Copyright: Wikimedia commons public domain

This weeks stretch assignment–create a simple Game on Scratch. This game exploits the sound pollution in our house-hold to control the ball lost on moon.

Happy playing…just make sure your device has microphone support and Adobe Flash plugin support in your web browser.

Come join C2PKids Club of Charlotte to get skilled.

“Digital Lemonade”– Next time coach your kids to sell some.

Image Copyright information : Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-2004-0701-502 / CC-BY-SA [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de], via Wikimedia Commons

Image Copyright information : Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-2004-0701-502 / CC-BY-SA [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de], via Wikimedia Commons

Like every summer, I had few sightings of Kids Lemonade Stand this year too. The parental psyche around getting their kids inspired to take up this favorite American summer activity is all too consistent. Parents want their kids to get out and learn some essential entrepreneurial skills by way of selling lemonade. And let’s not underestimate skills learned in this traditional summer activity-it teaches you the essence of all the courses that you might have taken in your pricey Ivy league MBA. Selling lemonade after all requires kids to plan & mobilize their friends into teams, source raw materials cheaply(commodities–sugar, water, limes, cups etc), manufacture and process raw materials into final product, decide on 3 P’s (Product, Price, Place), work on advertising campaign to attract its target consumers and finally endure the scorching heat to execute their plan–end to end and come with some profits. Indeed, one could argue this activity actually teaches life skills of perseverance, working with teams, dealing with failures and enjoying the pleasure of few hard earned bucks.

Now I have no quantitative evidence( and data) to back my claim but I have a simple hypothesis that this summer, we probably had lesser Kids Lemonade Stands compared to last year and in coming years they will become more and more extinct. Verifying my claim could be great Freakonomics project. But my claim is based on the on simple argumentation that this summer Kids had yet more avenues of consuming Digital Lemonade all while sipping real bottled lemonade loaded with high fructose corn syrup.

Realize that our kids are consuming a very addictive form of Digital Lemonade. This Digital Lemonade is delivered to them in very interesting form factors like online games, some silly and some useful mobile apps, Skype Chat or Google Hangout sessions, Vine, SnapChat etc. Parents too were consuming the same Digital Lemonade and had difficulty inspiring the traditional summer activity of teaching kids essential life skills by way of selling lemonade.

So why not we all take cue from this digital consumption behaviors of our kids and try revive this traditional idea in decline–but with a new spin. Like real lemonade stand, Digital Lemonade requires same planning, team and execution skill sets. Your AppStore is stand for your Digital Lemonade. You still need to think of 3P’s but very differently–Place becomes Internet, Product becomes anything that can entertain, educate, inform or add any other commercial/community value and Price becomes free but you may earn money from ad clicks. Selling Digital Lemonade will still need socialization strategy via social platforms versus traditional advertising strategy. Raw materials needed for Digital Lemonade as commodity as raw materials of needed for making real lemonade. Almost all offerings from AWS compute and storage services has free tier & can allow for your kids Digital Lemonade shop run for free. You need man-power? that’s available for cheap or free price too–just go to Amazon Mechanical Turk or other Crowd-sourcing platforms.

In short, selling Digital Lemonade is wiser idea and it teaches all the skills that selling real lemonade teaches and goes beyond to teach real skills needed for finding place in, surviving & thriving in digital economy.

Want to teach your kids how to sell Digital Lemonade ? Come join C2P Kids movement .

The new doctrine –Coding is as fundamental skill as reading and writing.

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.