My Christmas dinner was much like many of yours. We had a delicious meal followed by seconds (and thirds), enjoyed some family time and then went on to open the gifts as midnight hit the living room clock. As it goes with most holiday gifting nowadays, destroying intricate wrappings revealed tablets, gaming consoles and other advanced gadgets. The same ones we talk about at Mobile Geeks on the daily.
I have become the family’s official geek, so I spent a good deal of time helping the kids set up their brand new devices and showing them some neat tricks. Parents were quick to step in, telling their kids they better not slack off on their responsibilities or else they would be denied access to these shiny gadgets. This became the spark that would then turn into this very opinion piece.
Is prohibiting kids from using technology really the right thing to do? Will taking away a tablet really teach our children right? To be completely honest with you, I think this is a very common mistake parents make, and it shouldn’t be done (at least not the way we usually see it happen).
The issue here is that parents are faced with concepts that are new to society. Their parents never had to deal with something similar. These devices us geeks see as amazing tools are misconceived as addictive distractions. And they can be, but just like technology can make students fall behind in class, it can also grant them the push they need to make it to the principal’s honor list.
The origins of tech misconception
Let’s step back just a bit before we go on with this topic. Where did the habit of disciplining kids with taking away gadgets really begin? Don’t take this as a scientific fact, but I believe it started with my generation.
I saw the birth of some of the first mainstream gaming consoles. These living room computers were made for one, and only one reason – playing games. This is when kids started spending excessive time playing video games. It quickly became an addiction that proved to affect performance in school and daily chores.
It was second nature for parents to take these away, and maybe that was an adequate response during those times. Fast-forward to today and technology has evolved, but parents haven’t quite evolved with it.
The true solution
Parents shouldn’t really discipline kids by taking away technology. Instead, they should take away certain activities, which is really what is affecting a lot of kids nowadays. What I mean is, don’t stop them from using their computers, tablets or whatever they may own. Stop them from using social networks and games for hours on end.
Your kids are born into a very important era, please recognize how unable to compete they will become if they are taken away the tools that put the world at their very fingertips. Information is valuable, and it is necessary.
Learn to see tablets, computers, smartphones and the like as what they are. These are amazing tools, and like any other tool it has its negative sides. You could use a computer to hack and terrorize people, just like you can use it to figure out the cure for cancer. The device is not the important factor here, it is the person and how he or she uses it.
Tech, from the eyes of a millennial
Generation Y saw the birth of this new era. One in which technology becomes an essential part of our everyday life, and we can no longer live without it. We also saw the world before consumer technology as we know it took off. Our lives are divided by both eras and I believe our input is very important for parents trying to adapt to this change, which no one understands better than us.
I was lucky enough to have very reasonable parents growing up. We had great communication and they didn’t simply order me around as a kid. Instead, I would try to reason with them about what I should and shouldn’t be doing. It was more like coming to agreements or verbal contracts.
They came to understand that I wasn’t slacking off because of that computer I begged them for, but instead it was that new game that I installed in it. They would ask me not to play the game if I hadn’t finished my homework, but I could certainly use the computer to research on that topic I had to write my paper about.
Likewise, my parents required that I read and learn (aside from what school demanded from me) for a certain amount of time a day. I came to terms with them, proving that I could read a book, the newspaper, and also a sea of information that was granted to me thanks to the power of the internet and that same computer I sometimes used to simply waste hours gaming.
Here’s the real kicker: they would even allow me to replace some of that time with gaming… but not just any gaming. I was an avid fan of the Final Fantasy games, a series of RPG titles that was (and is) very popular. Some of you may not know this, but back then Final Fantasy games didn’t have voices – you had to read the entire dialog.
And we are talking about games in which you would spend many hours to beat. The story was of great importance too, making you read thousands and thousands of words. In a way, it was like reading a fantasy novel. I can honestly tell you my reading passion and skills wouldn’t have grown as much without the Final Fantasy series. Ironically, now I am making a living out of technology.
Furthermore, gaming has been proven to be good in healthy doses. Gaming can make your kids better problem solvers, as well as less willingly to give up when they don’t accomplish their goals. Responsible gamers are said to be hard workers of very strong character. So long as they don’t let it get out of hand, of course.
Be reasonable with your kids, they are smart. Smarter than ever, in this generation where technology has taken away the limits that we once faced. Your kids can learn anything they want, and accomplish great things – all thanks to those machines that many of you want to take away from them.
How can we make sure kids are using tech the right way?
With all of that in mind, you still want to monitor the little ones. Don’t push your kids back into your era, instead, adapt to theirs. We were all kids, and we know they will be mischievous and often try to get away with things. There is no set solution for this, but you can monitor them using many tools and techniques.
I often recommend a service called Net Nanny. This is available for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS, covering most devices people use nowadays. It’s also simple to use and brings you all the parental control features you could ever ask for. You can do things like block sites, manage usage times, monitor social media/chatting, mask profanity and more.
If you want an alternative, Qustodio is also quite awesome. Give them a try.