Fostering Technological Independence
Well, I believe, as with all other skills we teach our children, the goal is independence, and in this case, technological independence.
But what is technological independence? Is it merely training our children to turn a device on or off? Is it teaching them how to access websites? How to find information? Or how to download programs?
I believe that it goes beyond these initial skills. I believe that technological independence ultimately means teaching our children to critically think when using technology. That is, fostering a deeper understanding of technology as a life enhancer rather than letting it take control.
Three important reflections come to mind to help in this uphill battle.
Talking about the effects of Technology
It sounds simple enough, just talk it out! But this point brings me back to a story I heard about a father, his young son and an Ipad. The son was heavily immersed in a game of Minecraft oblivious to his surroundings. Then, in a scene that is repeated in millions of households around the world, the father asked the son three times to stop his game and help with the chores, without much success. Feeling fed up, the father eventually went up to his son’s room to take the Ipad away. Much to his shock, the son reacted violently, to the point of fighting his own father. The next day, the father talked to his son about the event of the previous night. They talked about why he reacted so viciously. After a period of reflection, the son came to the realization that he didn’t actually know why he was so angry, the son just wanted to stay on the Ipad.
This story emphasizes a point that we sometimes don’t think about. Our children DON’T understand their addiction to technology. They don’t realize the control technology has on them and they especially have trouble understanding the emotions that come out of this imbalanced relationship. That is why the simple act of talking it out can help children comprehend their connection with technology. Asking them about their emotions during use, after use or even when it is taken away from them suddenly, can help our children reflect on how much control technology has on them. The hope is that by gaining this understanding, our children can make smarter decisions when it comes to the use of their devices.
Opening up their World!
While technology can provide instant access to information from all over the globe, nothing beats an authentic experience. By opening up your child’s world, they can see all the interesting activities available that go beyond their device. There are many ways to do this of course. Signing them up for extra-curricular activities and sport is a good way to start. Encouraging them to learn a musical instrument or to write a journal can get the creative juices flowing. If possible, traveling as a family can be a great learning experience for a child. Even playing a board game on a regular basis provides an alternate avenue of entertainment.
The greater the variety in their world, the more likely your child will pursue other activities instead of simply relying on technology. This in turn, will allow them to gain independence and be able to think critically when engaged with their devices.
Parents: Take Control!
If all else fails, the final reflection is for parents to simply – take control. From a very young age, parents have the power to impact their child’s interaction with all the devices available and thus, can set up a clear path to technological independence. As parents, you know your own child inside and out. You know how they think, react and can get a sense of their understanding of technology. You have the power to set boundaries and as their first and primary educator, you have the means to teach them how to manage their time in this digital age. A great responsibility yes, but one that yields fantastic results.
As technology continues to evolve and integrate into our everyday lives, it is becoming increasingly important to evaluate its impact on our future generations. It is on us then, to help our children to start thinking critically about this aspect of their lives, with the hope that they grow into responsible, digital citizens.
Primary School Educator
Perth, Western Australia