The internet is now a very important part of everyone’s life. It’s omnipresent in children’s lives since they are born and soon becomes a necessity to them perhaps equivalent to that of food. This is obviously unhealthy but it’s just how it is in most households.
New parents are increasingly concerned about the amount of screen time their children use. They set specific time limits for the use of devices or set up apps on these devices so that they turn off after a specific amount of time.
When these measures are implemented with children that have free reign over their screen time, tantrums are the usual result. Mostly because in a way they have already become dependent on devices and now suddenly feel lost and confused about what they should do.
Alternatively, some parents encourage their children to spend as much time as they like using devices. The logic being that the more time they spend with technology the better their knowledge of technology will be in the future. This logic is extremely flawed as explained below.
What is technological literacy?
Since we agree that our children are great at using technology and spend quite a bit of time using it, let’s define what technological literacy actually is.
In the next 10 or 20 years, 70% of jobs that can be automated such as manufacturing or transportation will be lost to automation. This is a common argument for why children spending their time looking at screens isn’t a bad idea. However, the argument is not true because being technologically addicted is not the same as being technologically literate.
There is also a huge misunderstanding on what being technologically literate actually is. Schools keep adding technology to classrooms such as smart boards, projectors, and other technological educational tools. However, the goal of these tools is to improve how content in the curriculum is delivered.
As classrooms use more technology, we end up believing that our children are also learning about technology. This isn’t true as the technology is only used to support education and nothing is ever taught about the technology itself.
Children also learn to use all sorts of new technology readily but they never learn how the device they’re using does what it does. This is technological illiteracy.
Technology has become so user-friendly that everyone can now use them without ever considering how the platform or program actually works.
As parents, we should encourage our children to look into how everything they use works. How do social media companies make a profit? How do they transfer so much data to millions of people across the world? How does a printer work? How is information about a picture transferred to the printer?
Begin with technology that they are interested in or let them choose which technology they would like to learn about.
Another way to look at technological literacy is by comparing it to subjects we understand more clearly.
How do we define literacy in math, language, or science? As understanding concepts, being able to think independently about these concepts and provide useful ideas and suggestions, and implementing solutions on our own.
Why then do we not think about technology the same way? Why are we satisfied with being able to use technology (as it comes commercially packaged and user-friendly) but never bothered to learn about how technology really works under the hood?
Schools should include engineering topics that teach children how technology truly works. But since most schools don’t, parents should learn about technology so that they can teach their children at home.
Watch a video on YouTube about how a toaster works, pop open an old toaster and teach your child how a toaster makes toast.
Keep raising the bar until someday you’re teaching your children to build their own computer or appliance.
Instil curiosity about the working of technology in your children but make sure they’re not just becoming technologically addicted instead. In a world that’s quickly moving towards maximum automation, learning how technology truly works is an invaluable skill.