Modern technology has transformed the way we live our lives, with people now able to access the latest advancements from a very early age.
However, while technology has improved many elements of daily life, it is fair to say that there is a plethora of negative aspects to consider in respect of its use amongst youngsters.
While tech has clearly become an integral part of modern society, it is important that kids are taught how to use it safely and securely.
Responsibility for this lies not only with parents, but also with the educational establishments who are tasked with developing tomorrow’s adults.
Simply allowing kids access to technology without providing them with sufficient teaching about its pros and cons is a recipe for disaster and one which must be avoided.
Read on as we look at the best ways to reach kids responsible tech use.
Teaching expert says parents should take the lead
Respected literacy consultant, Amy Mascott, believes that giving kids media literacy lessons from an early age helps them learn key skills for evaluating what they see online.
Youngsters are presented with a lot of challenges on the internet, particular with regards to how to communicate responsibly with other people and working out what is real or fake.
However, Mascott says that tools like Be Internet Awesome are a great way for parents to help their children use technology in a responsible manner.
“Kids today need a guide to the internet and media just as they need instruction on other topics,” she said.
“We need help teaching them about credible sources, the power of words and images and, more importantly, how to be smart and savvy when seeing different media while browsing the web.
“All of these resources are not only available for classrooms, but also free and easily accessible for families as well.
“I encourage parents to take advantage of these resources and the new activities on media literacy. Let’s not only teach kids, but also inspire, educate and empower families to make tech work better for them as well.”
American Heart Association advises moderation
Studies have shown that spending too much time in front of screens can have a damaging and long-lasting effect on the health of children. In a study of 8 to 18-year-olds, the American Heart Association found that they spent an average of more than seven hours per day looking at screens.
The AHA recommends parents should limit screen time for kids to a maximum of just two hours each day, or just one for children under the age of five.
Health expert Dr. Tara Narula believes that promoting sensible usage of laptops, mobiles, tablets and other devices can help to keep them healthy.
Narula highlighted issues such as cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and obesity as areas of concern, but stressed that investing in child education was a priority and digital technology can certainly be a powerful tool for kids.
“It can introduce them to ideas, information, current events, even health education that they may not get normally,” she told CBS.
“It can also connect them socially to people who may live far away geographically, like family and friends, and allow them to be involved in school projects and assignments.”
While parents stress over buying the right laptop for kids (amongst other digital devices), the truth is far simpler: quality time over quantity will help child development and let devices last longer, helping budgets as well as education.
Beware financial pitfalls online
The growth in the popularity of online gaming over the past few years has sparked plenty of debate over whether it places unnecessary financial temptation in front of children.
In-game purchases on upgrades and special features help to bring the games to life, but many of the items don’t come cheaply.
Research has shown that around 40 percent of parents say their children spend money on in-game purchases, with many racking up significant amounts of payment transactions each month.
Nathan Dungan, founder, and president of financial-education firm Share Save Spend, said: “The danger with these purchases is that money turns magical. Children’s brains can’t process these virtual transactions because it’s not tangible to them.”
Dungan says it is imperative that parents should establish clear boundaries relating to online gaming purchases for what is and what isn’t acceptable.
Gaming consoles and mobile devices all have settings that allow parents to implement strict controls on what children can spend on the card attached to the account.
Keeping a tight grip on the purse strings will prevent your kids from racking up any unwanted bills and give them a greater understanding of the value of money.
Accentuate the positives of tech
Showing children that technology can be a force for good is a great way to get them to engage responsibly with the medium.
Many schools in North America are utilizing tech to teach young kids physical literacy, helping to show them how they can enjoy an active lifestyle.
Education company GoNoodle is at the forefront of using tech to promote physical activity in the classroom, using short video clips to get kids moving.
KC Estenson, chief executive officer of GoNoodle, says the system shows kids that there are more beneficial ways to engage with tech than merely staring at a screen for hours on end.
“GoNoodle gets kids to move – it gets them to be active,” Estenson said. “The entire purpose of this is a whole new interaction form with the screen, which is active engagement versus passive engagement, and most television and most of what’s happening with the technology now of all ages is passive, binge viewing, hours spent just watching the screen and doing nothing else.”
“Starting from the earliest age, we’re putting positive associations between the right things that are available to them on these screens and hopefully giving them an awesome alternative to the junk food that’s out there. It really validates what teachers know.”