It’s challenging to prepare your child(ren) to be successful in a world where technology is constant and rapid. Literally every field, industry, training and study path and career is being transformed by technology, whether it’s digital skills, computer science, data science, artificial intelligence or IT.
NewTechKids has compiled this list of concrete actions parents, caregivers, teachers and mentors can take to help kids acquire the future-proof knowledge, skills and thinking they’ll need to enjoy a broad array of study, training, career and hobby opportunities and become engaged digital citizens.
Rather than focusing on specific technology, focus on practising the actions listed consistently throughout primary, middle and high school in a way that is appropriate for the age of your child(ren).
(Please note: the Web sites, tools and apps listed are randomly selected and are by no means a comprehensive list. Ask around. Do your own research!)
1. Expose Kids to Computer Science and Computing Education: Giving kids a fundamental understanding of how technology works, the logic of computing and experience with coding, invention, prototyping and experimentation is key. This provides them with important knowledge, skills and thinking frameworks and encourages them to practice of computational thinking (solving problems they way computers do). It also gives them a reality check of what is needed to be a technologist and helps them acquire the growth mindset, grit and perseverance needed for this career path.
Check to see that your child’s primary, middle and high school is offering computer science and coding classes. Enrol them in extracurricular activities like NewTechKids bootcamps. Coding, robotics and game design classes are a good start. Encourage them to learn programs like Scratch and Python on their own through sites such as Scratch and Code.org. Be aware that coding environments offered by companies may have ulterior motives eg. prepping kids for their commercial coding environments.
2. Encourage Kids to Teach Themselves Creative Digital Skills: Schools will never be able to keep up with software and apps so encourage your kids to get comfortable with constantly updating their skills and mastering new software and hardware. Use their hobbies as inspiration.
Challenge kids to teach themselves how to express their creativity in digital form: game design, graphic design, music composition, video production, photography, painting and more. For example, GarageBand and FL Studio (music production, beat making) Canva and Adobe Express (graphic design) Blender and SketchUp (2D and 3D design), Krita and Artweaver (painting), Gimp (image editing), Tynker (game design), Duolingo (language learning), Stop Motion and iMovie (video production) and Storybird (creative writing).
3. Teach Kids How to Use Digital Productivity Tools: Learning to streamline processes and work in a productive, structured way will only becomes more important as kids approach high school and later, study, training and career paths. These tools enable teamwork, collaboration and co-creation which will become even more critical as the pace of global technology innovation increases.
Show kids how to use digital tools to make communication easier, structure information, and plan better. Encourage them to experiment and use the tools in Microsoft 365, Google Workspace and Apple iWork (documents, spreadsheets, calendars, slides, chat, collaboration) as well as apps such as Calendly (scheduling), WeTransfer (file sharing) and Evernote (note taking, organizing, task management, and archiving).
4. Teach Kids How to Use Social Media to Safeguard Their Privacy and Personal and Professional Futures: Social media is a huge minefield and parents have wildly different approaches when it comes to their kids’ usage. Regardless, the steps you take to help your child now will have huge implications in the future.
Discuss the implications of social media in terms of how companies analyze your data, people track/troll/cyberstalk those active on social media, and how future teachers, employers, business associates, friends, mates, etc. can research them based on their social media channels and social media activity. Set up social media accounts with your kids and teens: help them choose user names, passwords and profile photos, help them with privacy and notification settings. Internetmatters.org has published super helpful guides for setting up accounts on the different social media platforms.
5. Help Kids Develop Critical Thinking When it Comes to Technology: Technology innovation is outstripping government regulations and the introduction of laws. Rather than encouraging kids to only think of the benefits of technology, challenge them to critically assess its implications, consequences and ethics.
Watch and discuss new tech product releases, breaking news about technology, important research and government hearings. Especially discuss the negative consequences of technology with your kids. Teach them that automation saves time and money but that it also reduces the number of jobs, often leaves the most economically-vulnerable unemployed, and shifts production overseas. Tell them about tech companies which are developing products and services which harm kids, adults and and the planet. Most importantly, ask them what they would do to solve problems, create opportunities, engage citizens and make tech more ethical and fair. Time Magazine for Kids is a great resource which regularly covers tech-related issues.