Parents, teachers and caregivers often ask NewTechKids’ team members how they can prepare kids for a world of pervasive technology which is shaping almost every facet of life. They want to give their kids the best opportunities for success yet are overwhelmed, confused and don’t feel well-equipped because they did not grow up in a tech-driven world.
This causes a lot of anxiety so here are our top four tips for preparing kids for an uncertain world:
Don’t Protect Kids from Uncertainty, Expose Them to More of It: Nothing will take the sting out of uncertainty like facing it constantly and learning to adapt to it. Adults tend to protect kids from all things uncomfortable, including uncertainty. This is a big no/no. Practicing facing it in age-appropriate circumstances and overcoming it will help kids develop coping and managing skills which bolster strong mental health, problem-solving and decision-making. The stakes in making errors are much lower when kids are young so we need to see the process as necessary. An increasing amount of research is being done on how to establish what scientists and researchers are calling “a culture of uncertainty tolerance”.
Help kids develop the social and leadership skills which people want to see in uncertain times: In uncertain times, people gravitate towards leaders and people who are kind, collaborative, communicative, exercise deep listening, inspire confidence and admiration, and can turn failure into a positive learning process. Success in an era of uncertainty hinges on both tech expertise and the ability to galvanize and inspire people to leverage it to create solutions to the world’s greatest challenges. As Madeline Levine, a pyschologist and author of the book “Ready or Not: Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World, said it best, “…whereas before being the smartest guy in the room was probably insurance for getting hired, it’s not anymore. What’s insurance now is the ability to work collaboratively, to have new ideas, to fail at something and pick yourself up again. You can find out a lot of the content that you may need on Google; but what to do with it, how to know if it’s legitimate information, how to work in a group, and how to come up with new ideas—that’s what’s needed now.” People are becoming aware of the serious shortcomings in the character, behavior and ethics of current tech leaders. We need to start developing a new breed of tech leader with real social and leadership skills.
De-mystify tech uncertainty by teaching kids about tech and encouraging them to explore it on their own: A great way to help kids cope with constantly changing technology is to make sure that 1. they understand the science of technology and 2. they have hands on experience with tech invention. Transform them from passive tech users to passionate tech inventors by providing them with computer science education and encouraging them to explore how it works through coding, robotics, game design, digital creativity and maker tools and other hands-on, tech-related activities. Lifelong learning and teaching oneself new tech skills are 21st century superpowers. Fear of tech uncertainty in the future will fade if kids have a basic understanding of how it works and core computer science concepts which power all technology. Otherwise, they will spend their lives as passive tech users, sitting on the sidelines and watching while others create the future.
Discuss Tech Uncertainty in the Context of Innovation: When it comes to the technology around us, a great way to help kids cope with constantly changing technology is to talk about it. Innovation is powered by the uncertainty that exists in our world. Discuss with kids what technology was like in the past, what it’s like now and what it could be like in the future. Why has it evolved the way it has? How does technology affect us? What are the pros, cons and consequences of tech? Is it good or is it bad? Self-checkouts at grocery stores were once the jobs of people who were also there to help you bag your groceries and engage in conversation. Self-checkouts have led to increased theft in the Netherlands and now supermarkets are now investing the money they saved getting rid of sales clerks in…tech surveillance cameras and software. What will future grocery stores look like? What is the danger of more tech surveillance in public places like grocery stores? What rules would you put in place to protect the privacy and data rights of grocery shoppers? Innovation creates opportunity and uncertainty powers innovation.
Most importantly, we need to teach kids tech optimism: that all kids can become tech inventors if they choose to and that humans working with computers and technology can make great things happen.