// what do you think?


Raising Tech Savvy Kids. You Have To First Teach Yourself.

Thanks to PSFK for pointing out this great article on The Technium: Techno Life Skills. I’m a huge believer in teaching our children technology early. So much so that I just bought all 3 of my kids Galaxy Tabs (yes, I got myself one too).

Most of my friends think this is crazy. I think that when it comes to teaching your kids about technology and social media is like teaching them about sex. You need to start when they’re young because if you don’t, someone else will. And like talking to your kids about sex, most parents don’t talk to their kids about tech and social media because they aren’t comfortable with the topic themselves.

I learned this several years ago with my oldest daughter. We got her an email account and she started emulating all the bad habits of her friends and family members. She was forwarding on those awful chain letters that won’t seem to die and doing things that I know can get your account hacked or get your computer infected. So we sat down and talked about it. She wasn’t going to learn it from school so it was up to me.

The tablets that my kids are on are already outdated. I know that. But to them they are learning. They’re learning the basics. The way I see it these tablets are to them what the PC I learned DOS on are. Except they’re tablets are probably 100 times more powerful than that old PC was.

Here’s some of my favorite points from the article (bolded statements are by me):

  • Anything you buy, you must maintain. Each tool you use requires time to learn how to use, to install, to upgrade, or to fix. A purchase is just the beginning. You can expect to devote as much energy/money/time in maintaining a technology as you did in acquiring it.
  • Technologies improve so fast you should postpone getting anything until 5 minutes before you need it. Get comfortable with the fact that anything you buy is already obsolete. Therefore acquire at the last possible moment.
  • (I love this one) You will be newbie forever. Get good at the beginner mode, learning new programs, asking dumb questions, making stupid mistakes, soliticting help, and helping others with what you learn (the best way to learn yourself).
  • Often learning a new tool requires unlearning the old one.  The habits of using a land line phone don’t work in email or cell phone. The habits of email don’t work in twitter. The habits of twitter won’t work in what is next. - (I would actually say that it’s not unlearning it’s adapting but the overall point is right.)
  • Be suspicious of any technology that requires walls to prevent access. If you can fix it, modify it or hack it yourself, that is a good sign. (<cough>Apple<cough>)
  • The proper response to a stupid technology is to make a better one yourself, just as the proper response to a stupid idea is not to outlaw it but to replace it with a better idea.
  • Nobody has any idea of what a new invention will really be good for. To evaluate don’t think, try.


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About Tac

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.

  • http://www.FreeworldMedia.com Sean Wood

    This is the start of a conversation that needs to happen within families.  Alot of the scare tactics behind the news stories about “Your child and Facebook” can be avoided through early and frank education.  Parents, please don’t let your fear of the unknown keep you from helping your kids grow.

  • http://twitter.com/DoubleR425 Ryan Roberts

    Tac, I think this is spot on for getting them started, but the hard part for me is managing how much time they spend using the technology.  My kids all love using the computer and various games and are getting ready to start using email, etc.  They already spend more time than I really want using technology.  Adding more options to it makes it even harder.  That is where the education aspect becomes even that much more important.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    That’s a good point  but I like to break apart their various activities. Are they using technology to do homework, email their grandparents, reading a book on the Kindle app, or to play video games? That’s no different than when we were kids doing homework, writing letters to family, reading a choose your own adventure book or playing Atari. Yes we should manage their overall “screen time” and we regularly make sure the kids are outside being active, but what they are doing is far more important than what medium (digital or analog) they are using. 

  • Marco

    Great post. It reminded me a bit of this oldie but goodie from 1996: How to help someone use a computer http://polaris.gseis.ucla.edu/pagre/how-to-help.html Great insights like:

    “Nobody is born knowing this stuff.”

    “You’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a beginner”

    I’m curious, at what age did you get them the technology? I have a 4 year old who plays with my iTouch a bit (amazing to see how quickly he figured out the slide to unlock, etc.), and plays with simple computers at daycare, but we haven’t introduced him to much more yet, ’cause he loves reading, doing all the physical stuff that pre-schoolers love, etc.

    Just curious if you found there was a magic moment/tipping point when it was clear that your kids were “ready” (for lack of a better word) to both play with tech effectively and for you to have “teachable moments” with them about the tech.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    @marcopolis:disqus for me it’s really depended on the kid. Having me for a dad my kids have just grown up with this stuff. We gave my daughter her first cell phone at 10 or 11 because that’s when she started having after school activities but the phone didn’t have data yet. That next Christmas we got her a netbook (along with her own email account) so she could start doing her homework and while she’s been an eager adopter and user she doesn’t use it every day, we even had her on Facebook when she was 12 (yes a violation of their TOS) but she didn’t use it that much. But now that she’s getting ready to turn 13 she’s a lot more interested in being connected. 
    My son, 9, by contrast has been fascinated with tech for years and has been hounding us for his own phone or something and was by far the most eager to get his tablet. He’s also been the most independent and figures things out the fastest. Because of this and because he’s the one most likely to get himself in trouble somehow he’s the one I’ve taken the time to talk with and set up does and don’ts. 

    The youngest, 7, is excited but doesn’t get it all yet. That’s kind of the great part about some of these devices like tablets, is that they’re powerful enough they can do lots, not too technical that they need much training and it really kind of scales to their ability. I just make sure I watch what they’re doing and look for those opportunities to educate. 

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