Tech Consumer to Tech Creator
Some commentators regard our children’s obsession with technology as one of the greatest challenges facing parents today. Whether it is YouTube, videogaming or Facebook, technology is occupying more of our children’s time and energy than ever before and drastically changing the experience of childhood.
Whilst experts debate whether this exposure is causing harm to our children’s mental health and wellbeing, we parents are left to ponder how and whether we should resist the seemingly unstoppable technological tide taking over our children’s lives.
For some children, a solution may lie in channelling their preoccupation with all things digital into more productive and creative technological pursuits. In this way, they become active creators rather than just passive viewers, skilled designers instead of mindless users, makers instead of consumers.
Here are some alternative digital paths you may be able to lead your tech-fixated child along.
There is a host of creative technology toys available which may tempt your child away from a screen and allow them to become the builders and makers of technology. Additionally, these toys can provide a fun and practical introduction to STEM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). LEGO now offers a range of toys that can be built and programmed from humanoid robots, games, and printers to bionic reptiles and creatures. Or try award-winning Botley, The Coding Robot (www.learningresources.co.uk) which teaches tactile problem-solving skills in a fun, hands-on way and introduces children as young as 5 years of age to coding without using screens.
Board Games for Logic
Before introducing your child to coding, board games can introduce the fundamentals of computer programming logic to children as young as 4 years of age. The games require a similar logical approach as coding but are fun and can involve the whole family. ThinkFun (www.thinkfun.co.uk) makes a range of logic-related board games including Robot Turtles for ages 4 plus and Code Master for ages 8 and up. The Genius Square (www.happypuzzle.co.uk) is another board game for ages 6 to adult which uses strategic planning and speed of thought.
Coding means telling a computer what to do by giving it commands to which it responds. Learning coding puts children in control. It lets them learn through experimentation and master concepts such as logic and consequences. You might think coding is too complex, especially if getting your child to learn their times table is a struggle. However, with the right computer language, coding can be accessible to children as young as ages 7 or 8 years. You may consider purchasing a Raspberry Pi (£22 plus VAT) which is a basic programmable computer the size of a credit card, which can be plugged into a keyboard, screen and mouse to form a fully functioning unit.
Building a Personal Website
Why not help your child build their first website? This will give them the freedom to create, design, edit and develop a personal web presence. They could choose a topic such as a sport or hobby and also include their own blog. There are scores of website creator programmes now available that are free, inexpensive and safe and they make the process simple for all ages and levels of technical experience. Try www.wix.com, www.bravenet.com and www.doodlekit.com which also claims to have advanced security features that allow parents to monitor their children’s website.
It’s advisable to protect your child’s identity by password protecting their site. By doing this, you ensure that any visitor to the site has to enter the username and password you have provided. Be sure to only give login details to close friends and family and let them know you don’t want the login information shared.
Even if you password protect the site, it makes sense to ensure your child understands how to stay safe online, including not publishing their contact details. You will also need to monitor what they are posting.
If a website sounds too daunting then your child could sign up for a free blog hosted by one of the
many blogging platforms such as WordPress (www.wordpress.com) or Blogger (www.blogger.com).
Whatever technological path you accompany your child along, they are sure to benefit from being creative with technology, rather than simply reacting to it
Our thanks to Andrew Campbell and the team at Families Magazine for this article which has previously appeared in Families Magazine.
For more advice and tips for family see their website.
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