With the school year coming to a close, children and teenagers around the nation rejoice at the prospect of having extended free time and fun throughout the upcoming weeks.
For many of these vacation-bound students, a significant amount of their leisure activities will take place in a digital realm, unlike any environment their parents experienced just a few decades prior. While, from the perspective of the guardian, limiting these technology-based interactions appears to be in the best interest of the child or teen, it’s important to understand the positive and negative impacts that this management may bring about.
In this article, Rocket IT provides readers with insight into how to spot poor technology habits, the positive correlation technology can have on adolescent learning, and some steps to integrate healthy technology practices into a summer routine.
Warning Signs of Poor Tech Tendencies
For the later tail of Generation Z, and the soon-to-be explosion of Generation Alpha, the Internet has, and always will be, a primary staple of their existence. As such, it remains natural for the individuals of these groups to actively seek out new and exciting technologies early on in life. In moderation, this excitement for innovation can bring about a healthy passion for technology, which has the potential to then transition into a fruitful career.
That said, even the greatest of tech visionaries preoccupy themselves with activities outside of the digital domain. For example, the iconic Microsoft tycoon himself, Bill Gates, regularly finds himself on the tennis court, while Tesla Founder and CEO, Elon Musk, decompresses over baking. Without establishing a healthy balance between technology and other activities over the course of this summer vacation, children and teens may find themselves faced with the following series of negative effects.
- Increased Obesity
- Although genetics play a significant role in the weight gain of a child, lifestyle choices can play a secondary role. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, there is a positive correlation between the amount of time an individual spends looking at a screen and their body mass index.
- Shortened Attention Span
- The human brain is wired to predict future events. Our minds eagerly await our next email, text message, app notification, and more. In return, this anticipation can result in information overload and burnout, slowly deteriorating the brain’s attention span.
- Decreased Cognitive Abilities
- Social Isolation
- Because online gaming, forums, and social media offer adolescents an easy way to establish and maintain relationships, they feel less incentivized to pursue companionship outside of the digital realm.
Reduce the Cons and Develop Healthy Habits
Now that we’ve done exceptional work highlighting all of the repercussions associated with extended technology use in teens and children, where does one begin in protecting the mind of their child? While your first instinct may be to place them in solitary confinement for the next few years, let us assure you that this will only set your child up for failure. Instead, like most things in life, it falls upon the shoulders of parents to ensure their children understand how to effectively blend technology with other areas of life. By adhering to some of the following recommendations, parents can lay a foundation of healthy technology habits this summer, assisting in relationship cultivation and positive behavioral signs.
Social Media and Relationship Building
As previously mentioned, extended use of social media and online forums has the potential to bring about tendencies of social isolation. Keeping that in mind, it’s important to understand that completely barring a teen from accessing relationship-building technology can leave them feeling disconnected from their peers during the summer break. Therefore, as social media has continued to reach new heights in today’s society, a fine line must be drawn to distinctly define what constitutes a healthy rapport with these platforms.
While completing this objective is no easy task, ensuring your teen joins credible and appropriately moderated online communities is a good place to start. When provided with a safe and open environment of discussion, these Internet groups offer members resources comparable to that of a school-sponsored club. Furthermore, depending upon the locality of the group, the online relationships established have the potential to transition into real-world friendships.
With that said, there are some precautionary measures that should be taken to ensure your child’s safety when engaging in online communities. Although many forums are heavily monitored by admins, the age-old rule of “stranger danger” still applies to those individuals your child meets online. Teens should also be made aware of the phishing tactics cybercriminals are now deploying, such as sending links to fraudulent sites, in hopes of collecting personal data and credit card information. By taking a quick moment to briefly educate your child on this topic, you can greatly mitigate some of the risks associated with using social media platforms.
Content Interaction and Creation
Similar to the excitement that may be sparked from conversing with like-minded individuals, truly engaging with content can assist in improving cognitive thinking, team building and problem-solving skills in adolescents. Rather than allowing children and teens to passively view content like a couch potato this summer, consider introducing them to media that promotes interaction. Child-friendly YouTube tutorials and online workshops, for example, offer a great method to assist in maintaining an active mind throughout the summer break. In particular, Rocket IT team members have found KnowBe4’s activity workbooks to do an excellent job explaining the importance of cybersecurity on an elementary level.
Regardless of your child’s interests, there’s bound to be a workshop you can both partake in. Below, we’ve taken the liberty to list some ideas of popular technology trends, and how they can be altered to promote learning and teamwork.
- 3D Printing
- Although 3D printing originally began as a cost-effective method of creating prototypes, it has recently breached into the consumer marketplace. Because of this, a wide range of free repositories have opened, allowing users to share models that can be downloaded and printed at home. Now, with 3D printer prices on the decline, it is a great time to check out this new media format. That said, because these machines can get somewhat hot, adult supervision is a requirement.
- While once a mysterious conglomeration of HTML, CSS, PHP, Java and more, coding has now made a shift into the mainstream. With the need for software developers at an all-time high, it’s beneficial to embrace any signs of interest your child may show in the subject. Fortunately, even for the most tech-illiterate parents, there’s a variety of tech tools you can purchase to accomplish this. For example, Kano, a manufacturer of educational hardware and software, offers kids a variety of coding kits, capable of creating music, art, video games, and more.
- Photography, Videography and Music Production
- With most audio and visual content now being produced using smartphones and digital software, the barrier to entry has seen a downward shift, while the ease of use has dramatically increased. In particular, Adobe offers students a substantial discount on all the software you will need to create, edit and share visual and audio content. Now, as for learning the software itself, YouTube offers a plethora of beginner-friendly tutorials, with resources tailored to fit your every need.
- Augmented Reality
- As the capabilities of smartphones have continued to improve, augmented reality games have become popular in the Apple and Google Play marketplaces. While there have been a few different apps to peak audience interest, none have been nearly as successful as the cultural phenomena that is Pokemon Go. Using geo-tracking and augmented reality, the application has gamers actively go out into the world in hopes of catching elusive virtual monsters. Although this may not appeal to everyone, it is a great method to get kids and teens actively engaged with technology and the outside world.
Needless to say, there are many initiatives that can be used to empower a child’s imagination, problem-solving skills, and creativity, while simultaneously satisfying their urge to play around with technology during the summer hiatus.
Lead by Example
No matter how hard parents push their children to make healthy life choices, this task will remain nearly impossible should that parent not adopt similar practices (As the old idiom goes, monkey see, monkey do). Keeping that in mind, it’s important not to make giant or sudden shifts in technology usage all at once. Instead, here are a few tips the entire household can practice this summer to promote healthy technology habits.
- Silence your smartphone at dinner.
- For many families, dinner may be one of the few times all members can get together and talk about their days. Unfortunately, smartphones tend to distract users, disrupt conversations, and can potentially impede on healthy eating habits. By silencing all phones, parents can help children and teens place value on face-to-face interactions.
- Establish technology-free zones.
- Per the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers need eight to 10 hours of sleep per night. Housing technology recharge stations within a child or teen’s room lends itself to temptation, resulting in less sleep and decreased cognitive functions. Because of this, it’s beneficial to move these recharge stations out of bedrooms, and designate said areas as “technology free” after a certain period in the night.
- Leave your smartphones on the charger upon entering the home.
- For many career-minded parents, it can be difficult to disconnect themselves from work upon entering the house. While ignoring smartphone notifications is a difficult task in and of itself, kids notice when you’re disconnected from the conversation. Taking this step helps show that family time is a priority.
- Sit down and talk about the apps you’re using.
- As of February 2019, there were over 2,200,000 applications housed within Apple’s app store. Although it is important to monitor the applications young family members are using, prying too heavily can result in arguments. Instead, to gauge a better understanding of their smartphone use, try asking simple questions like, “Did you see anything funny today?” or “Are there any new games out?”. In return, this has the potential to spark a far more light-hearted and insightful conversation.
- Consider setting parental controls.
- As you can already presume, giving children unregulated access to technology would present a hefty amount of risk to both the child and their parents. Therefore, companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft have adapted parental controls for the modern era. By customizing these settings, parents are able to regulate the content their children view, while also restricting purchases made within the application.
Technology Continues to Help Kids Thrive
As you can tell, leading by example is crucial to the success of adopting healthy technology habits this summer. It’s essential to understand that the rapid development of technology over the last few years has significantly altered the environment in which younger generations are raised.
As new innovations continue to seamlessly integrate with the world around us, it’s only natural for technology to pique the interest of children and teens. That said, showing signs of interest in technology doesn’t always result in negative consequences. By responsibly exposing adolescents to the technology of today, parents have the power to set their children up for a successful tomorrow.