We’ve all heard about the problems associated with kids consuming too much technology. It discourages critical thinking, imagination and other useful skills that they’ll need to be productive adults. Aside from limiting a child’s consumption of tech or banning it altogether, there is a way to turn a love of gadgetry into useful knowledge that can do the exact opposite of overconsumption.
Allow your kids to embrace their inner nerd and start teaching them how technology works. You don’t need a Steve Jobs level of tech experience to start a young one off, just enough to spark the curiosity in their mind to expand beyond screen tapping and button mashing. Every day I see toddlers working phones and tablets just as well and sometimes better than adults. That’s because kids don’t have an “I can’t do this” view when it comes to tech. Children instead have a “How can I do this?” mentality.
But with technology evolving at a dizzying pace, getting a handle on how to operate new things feels nearly impossible. Every new-point-0 gadget that comes to market is a mental reset filled with crazy tech speak and functions that don’t make any sense.
But there is hope. One of the most fun and educational ways to teach your kids and yourself about the inner workings of tech is to build a PC. Trust me, it’s not that ambitious of a task. Over the years, the computer building community has grown tremendously and has opened up to people from a variety of skill levels.
If you can put together Ikea furniture, a decent PC is far from difficult. There’s a wealth of information on the web (especially on YouTube) that will walk you from buying parts to assembly. The payoff for a couple of weekends is that you get a computer that does everything you need while you and your kid learn the in and outs of what makes them work.
If your child is heavily into video games, there many resources online that teach how to design them (on a very basic level). On the player side, there’s a ton of information on how to become a professional player in eSports. Video game tournaments these days put up millions of dollars in cash, sponsorships and prizes for players.
There are even organizations like the High School Starleague that work with schools around the country to focus kids’ love of video games into an educational and productive activity. While the chances of your kid becoming a multi-millionaire from playing video games are slim, the lessons they will learn in technology through organized play are invaluable.
Currently, my three year-old is helping me upgrade the parts to my computer and I’ve already seen how it’s helped develop the way he thinks. Things don’t just magically work now. On a very elementary level, he’s learning how all of the different parts come together to make a thing that he can watch cartoons on, video chat with his grandmother and send photos to people.
My son may or may not pursue a career in technology but he’ll have the knowledge to not be left behind by it. The behind-the-scenes action of the tech world is terribly lacking in African-American representation although we absolutely rock at consuming it. Let’s add more of our faces into the mix.
Larry Hester is a Brooklyn-born writer who’s written for Vibe, BET.com, The Source, Complex and more. He now resides in Newark, New Jersey with his wife and son. He welcomes any parenting advice or encouragement. Check him out on Facebook and Twitter @almostcooldad.