Technology tends to get a bad rap among parents and educators. Some see screen time as harmful to children’s development, and others feel that social media and online content reduce sociability and curiosity in young people.
However, in reality, every student needs tech skills to be successful in later life. Students today must be competent web researchers and IT technicians just to get through a normal workday, and young adults can use their social media presence to network and land jobs.
Educators need to shift the conversation around technology and focus on responsible use while establishing critical digital skills to support developing minds.
Educators are worried about the amount of time their students spend looking at screens. The average teen spends nearly 7.5 hours per day looking at screens, most of which is spent scrolling on social media. This can lead to sleep deprivation and a lack of focus in the classroom.
But it’s important to remember that cutting out all access to social media and screens is not the answer. Instead, educators should focus on cultivating responsible use in their classrooms.
Responsible usage empowers young users when using techs like smartphones and tablets. Instead of “doomscrolling,” children and teens should use their screen time to develop both soft and hard skills like digital communication and coding.
Educators and parents can encourage responsible use by holding regular conversations where young people are encouraged to share their online experiences. In particular, adults should focus on praising positive online interactions and question moments of overuse or screen addiction. Most young people know that spending so much time on social media isn’t good for them, they just haven’t had the opportunity to verbalize it yet.
By focusing on responsible use, parents and educators can use tech as a supplementary tool for learning and help establish skills in developing young minds.
Young Children and Tech Skills
Young children today will grow up in an age defined by digital competency. This means that learning how to use tech is just as important as traditional skills like critical thinking and communication.
There’s no right time for children to start using tech, but the sooner that children can begin their STEM education, the better. Even kindergartners can use tech to help make classroom lessons feel more real, and young children will quickly learn the basics of devices like tablets and laptops.
Most children get their first personal device in the form of a tablet. So-called “kid-tablets” are great for young minds, and children as young as 5 can benefit from their own, child-safe, device. Educators and parents do need to ensure that the tablet is parentally locked for safety reasons, and should invest in design features like stylus and holders which help children develop dexterity and maintain good posture.
Young children will get the most from tablets which are filled with edutainment apps and a few games. Games like Animal Jam and Endless Alphabet do a great job of combining fun with education and promoting skills like critical thinking, communication, and civic responsibility.
Children can also develop hard skills like coding at a young age. Kids as young as 7 can learn to code on platforms like Minecraft and older children can get started in languages like Python through apps like Python for Kids and age-appropriate YouTube tutorials. Adults will need to oversee most coding efforts at first, as learning a coding language usually takes sustained effort.
Skills for Teens
Teens crave independence. Educators and parents can harness this desire for freedom by providing technology and programs which feel “adult-ish,” build employable skills, and relate to the real world.
When developing tech skills for teens, be sure to focus on things that will apply to the real world. Teens need all the help they can get during college admissions and job applications, so adding professional, tech-driven qualifications through coding courses and Photoshop programs will give them a leg up on the competition.
Teens will also love the opportunity to develop financial skills and grow an investment acumen at a young age. Middle schoolers can even practice investing through virtual stock markets which mimic real markets but are free to use and do not require real money to trade.
Older teens can use tech to learn skills that will be useful for years to come. For example, creative teens who excel in art classes can build a professional portfolio at an early age by developing skills on platforms like the Adobe Suite. They can post their creations to parentally-managed social media accounts and gain exposure through collaborations and their very own blog.
Technology has the potential to establish key skills in developing minds. Young children will benefit greatly from edutainment apps and can learn to communicate effectively and think critically while using kid-safe tablets. Teens need a little more responsibility to benefit from educational technology but will relish the opportunity to add employable skills like coding, investing, and editing to their resumes.