10 Ways Kids Can Use Technology For Good
By Becky Farrin and Melody Bergman
Have you ever visited a large mall or airport with tall maps of the building and a tiny little dot with the words “you are here” written next to it? It may take a few moments, but once you find your location on the map it’s much easier to figure out where you’re going.
In today’s online society there are no such maps. The little dot with “you are here” doesn’t exist yet. Our technology makes us feel so advanced that we don’t even realize how primitive we are with it. As parents and educators, we are just beginning to explore the many options technology has to offer our children. “We as a field know a whole lot about the impact of TV on children’s behavior and learning, but we know very little about all the new digital devices” (Donahue, 2012).
We may not know exactly where we are in this tech-based society we live in, but we know technology is here to stay, and we know the forecast calls for more of it in our lives. Currently there are many arguments about the negative effects of technology on our children. However, we have the power to change this and inspire our kids to use technology for good.
Here are 10 ways kids can use technology for good:
- Becoming responsible digital citizens. Citizenship implies a greater meaning of community. When we consider ourselves “citizens,” then we realize we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that our actions affect others and that we have a responsibility for how we treat others. The mission of being a digital citizen is to teach children to “respect, educate and protect” while they are online (Ribble, 2017).
- Bonding with faraway relatives. With the ability to video chat with family and friends, children as young as two can recognize grandparents and other family members, sing songs together, read bedtime stories or share in family events like birthdays. Allowing connections and memories to be made with loved ones from hundreds of miles away is definitely a benefit in our tech-based society (Khurg, 2013).
- Using smart watches and wearables responsibly. Smart devices like digital wristbands are now trending among many parents and children. Not only do they encourage kids to be active, but some also allow parents to assign kids chores and award them activity points. Other options include family and friend activity challenges (Maslakovic, 2016). Some wearables have GPS tracking devices that sync to phones or computers and let parents know where their children are, and how to find them if they go missing (Papadimitriou, 2017).
- Developing mental muscles. Some research indicates that specific apps and games can enhance kids’ ability to concentrate. Other apps help kids to meditate and focus on mindfulness. If these apps do what they claim, then they not only boost brain power but can be very beneficial for children with anxiety or attention deficit issues. (Hasan, 2015).
- Expressing creativity. Many apps allow kids to express their creativity with photos, music, coloring, making funny voices, or creating their own movies.
- Preparing for the future. Most of today’s jobs require the use of technology Regardless of our ambitions for our children or their own goals, technology will likely be a part of their career. Kids who learn to type, communicate in online settings, and have a basic understanding of navigating and troubleshooting online problems can have a real advantage in the work force.
- Advancing educational opportunities. Technology allows kids to access a variety of learning materials involving everything from letters and numbers, to states, spelling and learning new languages. Some sites, like k12.com, even allow kids to attend online school. Children with special needs and other disabilities can especially benefit from apps and tech-based devices because they help improve communication skills and change how the kids interact with others. Technology also makes it easier for these kids to focus on specific subjects they may be struggling with (NAEYC.org).
- Accessing books and school resources. Online libraries for kids make it possible for parents and their children to read eBooks and access a variety of kid-friendly resources for free. Most schools promote and encourage students to submit assignments, seek help for doing assignments, or read their textbooks from the school’s website. Students no longer have to worry about carrying heavy textbooks or forgetting assignments. This is especially beneficial for those children who have split living arrangements with their parents (Egbert, M. 2014).
- Serving others. Did you know you and your kids can help the blind to see? An app called Be My Eyes is actually making that possible. The app uses video chat to connect the blind to the sighted through their mobile devices. If a blind person needs help with a particular task, they can connect with a seeing person to ask for help. For example, if they need to know the expiration date on a milk carton, they can connect with a seeing person through live video chat to help read the date. (Something like this would definitely necessitate parental supervision, but it is a cool example.) Another example of using tech for service is genealogy. With the touch of a button, kids can access their ancestors, use indexing software to help interpret old documents, or even shoot pictures of graves with smartphones for sites like findagrave.com. We can teach our children to use tech to help others. We just need to find the opportunities!
- Learning (and teaching) something new. As parents, we know that when we’re doing something new it’s much easier to “show” than “tell”–especially with our kids. Technology is great for this! Whether we’re exploring a new language, trying a science experiment, wondering what “whale poop” looks like (Thank you, potty training book, for making my kids wonder that.), baking something fun, or failing horribly at a craft, tech can be a great tool to help. With parental supervision of course, we’ve learned how to look up video tutorials, explore Pinterest, and download apps that help us learn all sorts of new things. When we were little, we had to pile into the car, drive to the library, and check out books to learn this stuff. Now our kids have it all at their fingertips. Our kids are wired to look for information this way, and once they figure it out they can teach the rest of us parents and grandparents who might be so savvy at accessing these things.
While these are all positive ways that technology can be used, there must be limits of course. We cannot stress enough the importance of monitoring, protecting and limiting children’s time with technology..
There is no denying that we live in a digitally saturated world. It’s tempting, as parents, to dwell on the sinister side of technology, and to fear the harm it will cause to our children. But let’s remember there is a powerfully good side too! As we teach our kids to use tech wisely, we can inspire them to be awesome digital citizens and contributing members of a digitally-based society.
For more ideas, check out our lesson on Using Technology for Good. Be on the lookout the fall for new children’s book that teaches these same principles in a fun, kid-friendly way!
Becky Farrin has a bachelor’s degree in Communications with a minor in Family and Human Development and is currently pursuing a master’s in Mental Health Counseling. She is passionate about being a mental health advocate for children and families, raising awareness for suicide prevention, and promoting healthy communication in homes and communities.
Melody Harrison Bergman is a mother and step-mom of three awesome boys, Executive Director and co-founder of SACTrafficking.org [http://sactrafficking.org] and creator of the blog MamaCrossroads.com [http://mamacrossroads.com]. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and has been writing and editing since 2002. Her mission is to motivate leaders and community members to educate and protect children and families. Her experiences as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and former spouse of a sex addict bring unique perspective to the fight against pornography and sexual exploitation.
Donhue, Chip. (December 18, 2012). Tech Help. Erickson on Children. Retrieved from: http://www.erikson.edu/news/technology-can-benefit-young-children-when-used-appropriately-says-donohue/
Egbert, Megan. (January 20, 2017). 10 Reasons Why I Will Continue to Give My Children Handheld Devices. Megan Egbert. Retrieved from: https://hipmombrarian.com/2014/03/11/10-reasons-why-i-will-continue-to-give-my-children-handheld-devices/
Hasan, Heba. (March 11, 2015). 9 Brain-Training Apps To Make You Smarter. Tech Times. Retrieved from: http://www.techtimes.com/articles/38846/20150311/9-best-apps-to-train-your-brain.htm
iPad and Sensory Rover Distraction Unit assist in Child Life Department. (2014) Dayton’s Children. Retrieved from: http://www.childrensdayton.org/cms/site/7f0a8939b33e357e/index.html
Khrug, Jaime. (November 13, 2013). If We Can’t Have ‘Face Time’ at Least We Have FaceTime. Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jamie-krug/if-we-cant-have-face-time-at-least-we-have-face-time_b_3916379.html
Maslakovic, Marko. (April 11, 2016). Top Fitness Trackers for Kids Gadgets and Wearables.
Retrieved from: http://gadgetsandwearables.com/2016/04/11/fitness-trackers-kids/
Papadimitriou, Olga. (February 3, 2017). Wearable Safety and GPS Devices for Kids. Safewise Retrieved from: http://www.safewise.com/blog/10-wearable-safety-gps-devices-kids/
Ribble, Mike. (2017) Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship. Digital Citizenhip – Using Technology Appropriately. Retrieved from: http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/Nine_Elements.html
Rosen, Rachel. (2017). 9 ways the internet can be good for your children. Parent Info.
Steinberg, Scott. (July 20, 2016) 5 Reasons That Technology is Good for Kids. Parade Magazine. Retrieved from: https://parade.com/485609/scott_steinberg/5-reasons-that-technology-is-good-for-kids/
Technology and Young Children (Ages 3 through 8) The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Retrieved from: http://oldweb.naeyc.org/about/positions/PSTECH98.asp