When talking about the benefits of technology for children, is there cons to exposing kids to technology? Of course. Like all things, there has to be a good and a bad. But remember this the bad usually stems from abuse and extremes. Eating pizza is good. Eating a whole pizza is bad. Sleeping. Also good. Sleeping all day? Typically bad. Sure, you can make the argument that such abuse wouldn’t even be an option if the thing being abused was never introduced in the first place. But if that is indeed how you’re thinking about kids and technology, I ask you, how do you avoid it? Do you go the other extreme and keep kids from technology altogether? How could you manage?
Even if you were successful in maintaining such separation, doing so would be to strip kids of fun and entertainment, and more importantly, personal growth, skill-building, and the chance to land a lucrative job down the road. So, then, we land in the middle; balancing technology and life, ensuring kids soak up all that is considered good, and shielding them from what could easily turn bad with excessive use. Let’s look at the good.
Benefits of Technology for Kids
1. Technology allows for creativity & freedom of expression
Kids have big imaginations; too big to be contained. Where in the past they only had art supplies like crayons and colored markers at their disposal to get those ideas out and into a conveyable form, they now have computers, tablets, and so much more to help them turn such thoughts into reality. Sure, they still have pens and paper, but now, instead of – or in addition to – drawing a picture, they can create a 3D animation, and then even send that animation to a 3D printer to allow it to take on a physical form. Who knows their creation could be the prototype to a million dollar business. The skills learned from interacting with technology each have an attached creative form of expression. Coding is a skill, but programming a video game or mobile app is the expression.
2. Technology aids in socialization and relationship building
It’s not a scare tactic by any means, but the chances of your child finding other kids to interact and bond with over technology greatly outweigh the odds of them finding other kids who don’t use or like technology. Video games, social media, mobile apps these are all hobbies and interests just like sports, reading, and more. The opportunity for socialization with tech, then, is twofold. For one, kids can share in such interests with other kids as consumers just like they would over baseball cards or TV shows and two, they can also connect within the technologies, over live chat during video game sessions, or on Facebook, and elsewhere.
And even beyond that, if they want to take interests to the next level and build their own video games or learn to code in a camp or class setting, that’s another opportunity to forge solid relationships, as they’ll be collaborating and learning with like-minded peers. You never know where early childhood STEM exposure and the resulting relationships will lead your child. With each project, they’re essentially “networking” and gaining new tech allies as they make their way through school, and then on to internships and careers. It could all stem from a friend they met at cybersecurity camp or Fortnite camp.
3. Technology allows for independence and empowerment
Going back to the first point on freedom of expression, think about the journey from idea to conceptualization. First, you think of something cool, unique, fun, etc. Then, you lay the groundwork and research that thing or idea a bit more. And finally, you do it, or start to actually put wheels in motion to bring the idea to reality. With technology, kids can carry out that process on their own! Without technology, who knows how far they would get? It’s not only the act of creating and doing – which is cool enough – but that feeling of independence and empowerment. It can be incredibly powerful; beyond what words can convey. Tech executive and bestselling author Sheryl Sandberg said this: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Even as adults, there are things we often avoid because we haven’t had experience with them, and thus, we are afraid to fail. If kids can jump in and do things with technology now, they’ll be in better position to keep pushing and achieving as they grow older.
4. Technology improves problem solving and perseverance
Have you ever heard the term “survival mode?” It is a gameplay experience found in a number of different types of video games, where the player is tasked with staying alive as long as possible to outlast opponents. In the popular game, Minecraft, “survival mode” is one way players can sharpen problem solving skills. Specifically, they are dropped into new and different environments, and must immediately build shelter, and collect items like weapons and food in order to survive. As if there needed to be more of a kicker, a “Minecraft day” lasts 10 real-world minutes, forcing players to move fast while making good decisions in order to stay alive. While honing in on the benefits of Minecraft might seem like an obscure example, that’s the point. If I can pull out a way that one single video game can improve problem solving and perseverance, think about all of the other opportunities floating around out there. Really, all of these points about how technology benefits children are interconnected: With technology comes freedom of expression, and with such freedom comes the chance for kids to independently set out and achieve something, largely on their own. In doing so, they face roadblocks and challenges that must be cleared if they’re to reach their goals, so they learn how to deal with such hurdles. Whether that hurdle is trying to build shelter in the Minecraft world or debugging a line of code, it all helps establish a strong sense of perseverance. In turn, they’ll be encouraged to come up with their own solutions when problems are faced in technology, or outside of it—in the form of a homework issue, disagreement with a friend, or other personal hardship.
5. Technology helps instill an entrepreneurial spirit
Let’s recap up to this point: creative expression, relationship building (networking), empowerment, and perseverance. Sounds like the making of a budding entrepreneur to me. Since 1999, we’ve seen 350,000 kids pass through our summer tech programs. Many go on to secure internships and launch dream careers with big-name companies, while others found nonprofits or start their own organizations. We’ve seen how summer camp can change lives, but when thinking about the benefits of tech for kids, I always think of Ian Cinnamon, an iD Tech camper turned author, entrepreneur, and then some. “I was first seriously exposed to programming at iD Tech Camps, and from there I was motivated to learn more about C++, Java, and programming in general,” Ian says. He went on to write Programming Video Games for the Evil Genius at 15 years old, became an app programmer/developer with several apps to his name at 16, went on to work for Zynga and Apple, and even founded his own nonprofit. He recently penned DIY Drones for the Evil Genius: Design, Build, and Customize Your Own Drones, and built a drone in minutes at the Under 30 Summit while on stage with HP CTO, Shane Wall.
Is Ian’s story amazing? Of course. What makes it special is the fact such achievements are not typical of most of us. But the point remains. It started with tech, and it started young. It started with being exposed to programming, which led to motivation, and the rest was history. The great thing is that technology touches everything, which means there are entrepreneurial prospects in everything from reviewing toys on YouTube to playing with Roblox.
6. Technology enhances learning
While skills like the aforementioned creativity and independence can easily make one a better learner, this is an example of a more direct application of how technology can enhance the learning experience. It’s also a very easy point to grasp. What items do you typically associate with the terms learning? Years ago, it was primarily books, schools, and libraries. Then, the computer introduced a new way to learn. While that use of technology really opened the learning floodgates, consider now what virtual and augmented realities could accomplish. Instead of reading about how the pyramids were built, kids could step into a virtual reality and experience what it like to be present when the structures were erected. They could stand below and observe the massive stones being dragged into place, leaving them with vivid memories instead of words on pages. The opportunities are endless! Anything that was once written about and illustrated in books for our eyes to read can now or soon be constructed in alternate reality, for us to see, touch, interact with, and experience on a much deeper level.
7. Technology jobs are (and will be) in high demand
As stated way back in the first few paragraphs, one of the greatest benefits of exposing kids to technology is the fact that they’ll be well-prepared to jump into a pool of available, high-paying tech jobs. I mean, you can’t go a day without seeing news on the positive outlooks of such occupations. Just these past couple of weeks:
- Amazon adding 2,000 tech jobs with expanded Boston Tech Hub
- High-tech job market continues growing in Birmingham
- 200 new tech jobs to be added in Chicago
- Home Depot takes on Amazon with 1,000 tech-jobs expansion
The cool thing is, we aren’t just talking about Silicon Valley, and we aren’t just talking coding. Just from the headlines alone: Boston, Birmingham, Chicago, and then when you dive into the articles themselves, Atlanta, Austin, Dallas—and from tech powerhouses like Amazon to others you wouldn’t typically associate with tech like Home Depot. Tech jobs are here today. Tech jobs will be here tomorrow. Some of today’s tech will be tomorrow’s tech, and some of tomorrow’s tech will be completely brand new and something our world has never seen before. Who is going to be best equipped to fill those positions? The ones who start learning now.
Nearly 2,000 words into this blog post, and we haven’t even mentioned the more traditional tech benefits you’d normally read about, like how video games can be good for you because they enhance hand-eye coordination or because they improve critical thinking and reaction time. Meaning, there is so much more out there to consider when it comes to how technology could be benefitting your kids. I won’t resort to clichés and call it the tip of the iceberg, but all of this amounts to a speck of desert sand, or a single drop of ocean water. I as a kid that was born in 1970 I grew up in the whole video game craze frome the beginning! I still enjoy them today!