Kids and Tech

About a week ago, we upgraded our kids from their LeapPad Explorer devices to Google Nexus 7 devices, thanks to some gifts and trade-ins that we had. The dramatic shift in device usage is starting to really give tangible teeth on how great and perilous the Internet can be.

Does anybody have vinyl stickers like this on their car?

The amount of knowledge and resources out there is so empowering to my kids. The other day one of them stumbled upon a YouTube channel that teaches them how to draw cartoon characters and other things with some very simple steps. As budding artists and doodlers, they can’t get enough of this channel and it gives them the fundamentals that I can’t give them [I’m a stick figure master though…] We will let them watch some of their favorite shows as well from time to time, which leads to lots of word by word replay of old home videos through AFV. 8^D We are able to view some of their class resources online as well. This makes lugging around a bulky laptop [wow, am I really calling a laptop bulky considering the tower cases I built?!] unnecessary when we’re doing some quick errands or making a trip out and back.

Books and music now become amazingly accessible as well. While they have cheap mp3 players for road trips, they’re allowed to kick up whatever music they want around the house while doing chores or playing in their room. We’ve setup a few playlists with our Google music account, but they can explore the wide variety of jazz, classical, hip hop and other tunes we have acquired. Eventually we’ll link in Spotify to help them explore more. Our local library has the Overdrive system in place, so whatever books we don’t have at home or have purchased for them with their allowance they can “digitally checkout” and enjoy. We do allow a handful of games as well, and I kind of wish I had those physics based games when I was a kid since they are so dang cool! I’m not sure if Yahtzee or the “Reading Conjunction” games I had on my TI-99/4A count towards that. 8^D

Having all of those resources at hand has concerns to watch out for as well. Google now searching is a wonderful thing, but with the enunciation of words and interpretation of those by the software still sketchy at times, it has led to a few potential search result pitfalls. Typically we are in proximity when they are doing searches for items to draw and other such needs, but we’ll also work on getting some stricter filtering in place. The eyestrain and sleep issues are also a concern and so we’re making sure that device time is at least 30 minutes out from bedtime and we’re reading good ‘ol fashioned paper books or doing something else.

The biggest concern for me is how consumed they can get with their devices. Left to their own devices I suspect they would run their battery out, and then continue working/playing while it was plugged in. While on one hand being emerged in that much books and music (we’re curbing the games/shows) could be a good thing, the imbalance that it would cause would not be. There’s still lots of running and talking and exploring and playing and stuff that kids [and us big kids to] need that you don’t get in front of a screen.

All of this sounds like common sense, and has probably been discussed and blogged about several times over, but seeing this in action, and not simply reading about it, adds a whole new gravity to the issue that hasn’t really hit me before. It causes me to think about my own “screen time” as well. Am I making sure to balance out the physical with the digital? Am I running and talking and exploring and playing and doing things outside of my phone/tablet/laptop? I should be. I better be. It’s one thing to tell my kids what to do, it’s even better to show them.

What are your 10 bits on the matter? I want to know!

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