It’s Saturday morning and the kids have been on their iPads for three hours. You tell yourself “It’s the weekend!” as they huddle together basking in the electronic glow. When we were kids, we watched Saturday morning cartoons until noon and we survived, right?
We live in a digital age—and ready or not, our kids have embraced it. “Screens have historically gotten a bad rap when it comes to family engagement,” says Carly Shuler, Winnipeg mom and Harvard-educated expert in the relationship between media, technology, and education. As the co-founder and CEO of Kindoma, a video-chat app that allows loved ones to engage in activities together via video, she insists that “when used the right way, screens are not mechanisms to keep families apart, but rather, windows that can bring families together.”
Instead of fighting against electronics and technology at every turn and lumping millennial Minecraft YouTubers in the same boat as education-based learn-to-read apps, keep an open mind and embrace the good that the digital age has brought to our lives.
Here are five ways technology benefits kids.
1. Technology bridges the distance.
Whether you’re a grandparent living across the globe, a military or divorced family or working parent travelling on business, technology has virtually swallowed the distance between loved ones, making it easier to connect than ever before.
Programs like Skype offer a free vessel of video communication, while offerings like Kindoma are geared towards children’s attention spans, creating easy, interactive and fun ways to connect by engaging in normal activities, like reading a bedtime story or drawing pictures together.
2. Electronics improve literacy.
Fostering a love of reading early on undoubtedly sets up a child for a lifetime of success, but not all children learn in the same way. If you’re experiencing challenges with your budding reader, literacy confidence can be as close as a mouse-click away!
Ooka Island, for example, is a fun, educational computer adventure game that gives children ages preschool to Grade 2 the building blocks they need to master reading. Like a personal reading tutor, children can play along while the technology analyzes their results, determines their strengths and weaknesses and plots a personalized path, communicated in weekly report cards to parents.
Digital publishers like Pickatale encourage reading through interactive storybooks for children. With an ever-growing library available in multiple languages, Pickatale curates works of authors, illustrators, narrators, and translators from all over the globe, to deliver original and entertaining content and offers various modes of narration and tapping functions that allow children to read along and engage with the stories according to their age and ability.
3. Technology can get them outdoors.
Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned treasure hunt? Imagine being anywhere—and we mean anywhere—in the world, with a possible hidden treasure potentially just a few feet away!
With the use of a GPS or by downloading the official Geocaching Intro app, there are no limits to what you can accomplish on your family’s next afternoon adventure by following clues and coordinates to uncover treasures hidden nearby. If you’re one of those parents with an “indoor kid”, geo-caching is a great way to get them outdoors too. Geocaching is fun, active, teaches respect for the environment and navigational skills, makes you part of a community, builds leadership and teamwork skills and can provide hours of fun for the whole family to enjoy together.
4. Technology provides learning enrichment.
When we were kids, if we had a question or didn’t understand something, we had two or three resources; our parents, our teachers, and the library. The Internet has created an endless stream of content to help enrich our children’s learning, and even help us do a job better as parents.
Trying to teach your stubborn daughter to tie her shoes? Look at YouTube for tons of kid- and parent- tested video demos. Don’t understand your son’s math homework? Download practice sheets or watch tutorials online that can explain it to lessen the frustration on all sides.
How about delivering on your promise that your summer project would be building a go-kart in the garage? Be the hero by using step by step instructions including helpful hints, age-appropriate tasks for your crew and videos to get the project going from any number of great kid-oriented DIY sites.
5. Even video games can be a good thing!
There, we said it! Like any form of technology, moderation is key, especially when you have a son or daughter who loves video games. Their level of interest can border on obsession at times and it’s up to you to ensure their day to day activities achieve a good balance. That said, recognize that participating in video games can enhance visual spatial, problem solving, team work, design, keyboarding and many more skills, to name a few.
Technology is here to stay—find the right balance for your family and plug into a new dimension of fun for everyone!
Has technology helped your child in a unique way? Tell us about it!
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