Using Technology to Build Character In Our Kids

By Tracey Dowdy

As parents, there are many things we want for our children. We want them to grow up to have more, do more, and be more than we have, we do, or we are. Most of all, we want them to grow up to be kind and decent human beings, who care for the planet and each other.

Because technology has seamlessly integrated into our lives, we sometimes overlook its potential as a tool for character building. But looking for teachable moments and making the most of them when you find them, you’ll see plenty of opportunities to instill the values that matter to you most.

It starts with teaching them to care for your devices. Generally, the first technology your child has access to is your smartphone or tablet. From the very beginning, teach them that using the device is a privilege – not a right – and with privilege comes responsibility. Remember, most of what they’ve handled is designed for kids – think oversized plastic blocks, and board books – so they’re oblivious to the potential disaster of dropping your device.

Explore the internet together to teach them the world is a wild and wonderful place – online and offline. Watch documentaries about cultures or lifestyles different from your own, and have a conversation about what you’ve seen.

Play games and solve mysteries together. By engaging in co-play, you’re developing social skills, problem solving strategies, and teaching cooperation. Just as important, playing competitive games or games where they may sometimes lose teaches them sportsmanship and character.

Teach your kids compassion and empathy through social media. Nearly 43% of kids say they have been bullied online and 25% say it’s happened more than once, making it a critically important issue for families to talk about. Just as important is online privacy. Apps like Snapchat are popular with kids because of the short shelf life of images posted, but teaching your kids that nothing ever really disappears is important.

Finally, sometimes it’s good to take a digital time out to learn about self-control and patience. We’ve become accustomed to instant gratification, but taking a break from social media – even for an hour or two – can go a long way to breaking bad habits and restoring perspective.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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