Saturday, 20 April 2013

Why Tech Age Kids?

So, I've called this site Tech Age Kids. Pretty self-explanatory, but I thought I'd cover the story behind it.

I've been writing reviews of gadgets for kids on various sites for a while. I usually get lots of grateful comments from non-techy parents and grandparents who appreciate a functional review of the gadget (what can it do?) rather than the usual list of processor speeds and storage capacities that the '40-something geek guy reviewers' (paraphrasing) tend to provide.

And then I get the doom-sayers.

They usually comment on other people's comments suggesting that the Granny who wants to buy her three-year-old granddaughter a learning tablet is evil and ruining her grandchild's innocence by corrupting her with technology. Seriously, some people feel very strongly that tech for kids is a BAD THING. These people want to get back to a time when kids only had sticks and mud to play with. (As I realized when I considered my own 70s and 80s techy childhood you have to go back quite a long way for this to be the case.)

My take on this is that overall having technology around is a great thing that kids can really benefit from. Our kids are living in a technological age (in most parts of the world) and to them tech is normal. Today's children being interested in gadgets is like stone age children being interested in rocks. (My older son is a history nut and we had been reading lots of prehistory books when I was thinking about this.) So there we have it: Tech Age Kids.

To kids growing up now, technology is normal. And the rate of change of technology is normal too. Now I realize that our kids are growing up in a more techy household than most. We have lots of home automation and a 3D printer as well as a beyond typical collection of computers, tablets and household gadgets. We are a little ahead of the curve. But this is where we're headed. My kids are completely blase about all things electronic.

I think adults are much more likely to focus on the device itself rather than the activities it enables. Kids don't see fancy gadgets. They see a way to read a new book, play their favorite game, research the ancient Egyptians, find out about the latest LEGO sets, surprise their friends with wolf noises in their bedroom or 3D print a role play accessory for their latest adventure.

I don't see technology as an evil to be mitigated. I see it as a brilliant opportunity that is moving the human race forward to the next age. The availability of everyday electronics and communication technologies is on the achievement level of the widespread availability of the written word. It's a privilege to be living through such an amazing time in history.

We shouldn't be asking how much we need to limit our kids use of technology. Instead we should be making sure they get the most from technology and that they grow up equipped for life in the tech age. Some of them will be responsible for pushing the boundaries and developing the next generation of life-changing devices. Let's make sure they have the skills they need.

Now that doesn't mean we don't have to be careful. Rocks can be dangerous if not used safely and appropriately. Likewise gadgets and the internet. Our tech age kids needs to learn how to use technology and tech age parents need to understand the issues and prepare their kids and put limits in place when needed. This is new territory and the research is still being carried out. There's lots to explore.

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