The summer months consist of family vacations, sports camps, sleepovers, public pools, and relaxing around the house. For Generation Z, those activities directly encourage technology-based responses such as snapping selfies, social media posts, and epic video game battles. In Digital Detox, we looked at taking a break from technology as part of a healthy technology diet. This time we’ll look at ways parents can take advantage of technology to promote learning and reconnect with the family.
Learn to Code
Coding is the behind the scenes stuff that makes technology work. For example, when you order your coffee ahead of time through the Starbucks app, code is what translates your taps into a delicious beverage waiting when you arrive. You don’t have to be a tech whiz in order to write code though. There are quite a few options in this space that can create some amazing projects. Many of the apps let users drag and drop snippets of code called “blocks” into place. Arrange the blocks to indicate what should happen when a button is pressed or an action is taken. The apps below encourage 21-century skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and when done in conjunction with a parent, collaboration. Experience has shown me that trying to learn a coding app and explain it to your child at the same time can quickly become frustrating for both of you. Take a few minutes to explore the apps on your own before diving in. This will also help when you’re talking with your child about what you might want to make together. For younger students(5-9), some options include Scratch Jr, LightBot, or Kodable. Older students might like Scratch, CodeMonster, and Alice.
Curate a Collage
Snapping photos from a smartphone is a daily occurrence in the digital age. It’s how we document our experiences, our ups and downs, and our lives. Use these digital moments as a way to have a conversation with your kid(s). Set aside a few minutes each week to curate your best summer photos with your child(ren) in an online setting such as Facebook or Instagram. I’d suggest Instagram since teens and young adults view Facebook as “old.” If you’d rather not post photos online, use an app like Pic Collage to create a collage of the images you select together. As you go through the pictures, ask why they choose a particular image. Does it bring back a specific memory? Do they like how they or others look in the photo? Creating a collage is another activity that works well with kids of all ages. In the end, you’ll have a collection of memories coupled with the knowledge of why those memories are special.
In my opinion, YouTube is the one constant among all parents. Almost every parent can relate to the fascination our kids have with streaming video service. Preschool children find videos of adults opening and playing with toys captivating. Grade school kids enjoy watching others play video games or shoot nerf guns. Teens and young adults use the site to follow key influencers, get style tips, or research topics of interest. While my wife and I would love to personally approve every video our kids watch, admittedly, this is an area where we struggle. Let’s face it: YouTube can be a great distraction when you need to get a few things done around the house. Instead of using YouTube as a placeholder, use it to discover what interests your children. Let them know you want to sit down and watch a few of the videos together. Make sure to provide enough time for your child(ren) to select a few of their favorite videos or YouTubers. While watching, ask a few questions about the content of the videos. Let them see that you’re genuinely interested in what is on the screen. Try to avoid asking questions that could be considered judgemental. The idea is to connect with your child(ren), not criticize their YouTube preferences.
Play a Video Game
Playing a favorite video game, like Fortnite, with your kid(s) is another fun option. Pick up a controller and fumble your way through virtual worlds in the same way your parents used to with Super Mario Brothers. Mentally set the expectation that it is only a game and you’re not going to do well. It will keep you from getting overly frustrated while playing.
Create and Print a Storybook
Kids love it when their parents tell them imaginary stories. The story request often comes unexpectedly though, which in turn means you’re creating characters and a narrative by the seat of your pants. Instead of relying on your quick wit in these situations, take the time to develop a set of characters with your child(ren) ahead of time. You can then use technology to bring these characters to life! Sites like StoryJumper.com allow you to build your books online then print a physical copy to read at home. The site is simple to use and includes some prebuilt scenes, characters, animals, and other odds and ends that can be imported into the story. You can even take it a step further by using the site Fiverr to hire an artist to create a few custom illustrations for your book. This idea works better for younger children and may also work well for kids who love to read. Creating a book together encourages creativity and imagination. Children also get a finished product that they can hold in their hands, show their friends, etc.
The children of today are growing up digital which means the adults of today may consider using technology to reach them on their level. These are just some of the many ways you can incorporate tech as a way to connect with your kids. There are many spins or variations you could use on these projects to fit your family dynamic. All of the ideas listed encourage parents to engage, connect, and stay relevant with their children through the use of technology.
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