I’m always fascinated by the different attitudes parents show towards technology. Some go out of their way to embrace every new device that hits the market, showering their kids with Kindles and iPads so they can ‘stay ahead of the game.’ Others view technology the same way they view a talk about the birds and the bees: “There’s no need for any of that stuff just yet. Let him be a child for a little longer.”
While these two different approaches rarely have any long term impact on the kids – the technology ‘have-nots’ are usually all caught up by the time they reach 5th grade – it often has a lasting impact on the parents themselves. The startling rate of technology adoption among school-age children means that even the savviest of parents struggle to stay ahead. Those parents who once took pride in declaring their home a no-tech zone are often left on the outside looking in.
While some parents are OK with not being part of this brave new digital world, others feel frustrated. I’ve had moms come up to me to say how lost they feel when their kids tell them about the wikis they are building in school, or the latest e-learning platform they are using for math. Their long-held dream of sitting there with pen and paper waiting to help with the homework has been overtaken by surge of techno-speak and a feeling of hopelessness.
However, I usually tell these moms that it’s never too late to get involved. There are plenty of ways for parents to connect with their digital kids without spending hundreds of dollars on the latest devices or going back to night school for Technology 101.
Show and tell
If your child is using a new device, program or website that you aren’t familiar with, ask him to show you how it works. I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t get a kick out of teaching his parents a thing or two, and technology is one area where most kids think they have an edge. Make a few notes as your child explains what he’s doing – and get him to give you some homework!
Use the vast resources of the Internet to help get up to speed. If you want to know more about an educational tool that your child is using, Google it. At the same time, Google your child’s name and a few of his friends. You don’t have to be an expert to get a good or bad feeling about some of the web-based tools that your child is using. If you have any doubts or questions about your child’s online activity, check with his school. Teachers, tech specialists and guidance counselors will be more than happy to guide you through the resources that your child is using.
It takes a village
Similarly, don’t be afraid to check in with other parents, particularly the parents of your child’s friends. If several of you are keen to know more about the devices and tools that your kids are using, arrange to have someone come in and talk to you as a group. A problem shared is a problem halved, and nowhere is that truer than when it comes to understanding what our kids are up to!
Whatever your level of understanding of today’s digital technologies, be excited for your child’s involvement and the discoveries he’s making on a daily basis. Whether it’s an online discussion group, a cool new science app, or just a fun new game, show the same level of interest and enthusiasm that you would if he got a good report card or was starring on the soccer field. Technology may not be your world, but it’s his and he wants you to be a part of it.