When it comes to raising kids, our increasingly technology-heavy lives have hit a fork in the road. Parents are starting to wonder whether too much technology is good or bad for our kids' growth, whether it's time to limit exposure to tech – or to open up the possibilities. As a parent myself, I see how tech has become an accepted part of all our lives, but also how tech can overwhelm my own kids. But now isn't the time to hold back – now is a time to guide, encourage, and expose our next generation to this tech so they form a good relationship with it, and so they are ready for their own future.
Sometimes, technology is designed so seamlessly that kids get lost in it while they use it. Ironically, that's the goal of the tech companies – create something so seamless that users don't need to think about it. But I say we fight against that. We turn our kids into Critical Thinkers of technology, not just users of it. By thinking through how technology might work, or why its designed in certain ways, we are setting a foundation for our kids to think critically about the things they use, things that they themselves may soon be a part of creating.
Almost any tech or application can be viewed with a critical thinking eye. Playing Pokemon Go? Ask how small businesses benefit, or talk about GPS position tracking. Spending $27 to buy Minecraft? Talk supply and demand pricing, or a license vs subscription model. Watch a lot of YouTube? Find out how youtube the company makes money, or how youtubers themselves become successful (it's not easy!).
The best part is, it's not the answer that's important, it's the thinking process. In fact, if you don't know an answer, take it a step further and find out the answer together on the Internet. Not only is learning how to learn an important skill for kids – but now you've learned something too!
At theCoderSchool, we use this method every day. We encourage inquisitive, critical thinking not only through the code we build (“why did the tank disappear?”), but through the broad tech talks we hold (“how does Uber work?”). We even Google the answers to our own questions sometimes. By setting up a habit of critical thinking of everyday technology or applications, we set a foundation for next generation to think, learn, grow, and create.
Too often we parents get busy and let the computers and kids get lost in reality on their own. But just as there's no substitute for a passionate Code Coach® that brings out the technical curiosity in our Coder School students, there's no substitute for the engaged parent who teaches and learns along with their kids' technology-heavy lives. So let's find these teachable moments. What are you going to ask your kids today?