I have seen the Facebook posts; I know many of you have exceptional children that are self-starters. You have children who clean their rooms without being asked twice and children who happily do flash cards and built a scale replica of the Eiffel Tower out of toothpicks, without any parental involvement. If that is your child, this post is not for you. For the rest of us who value the use of technology as a motivating tool, welcome.
It is easy to begin to view technology as bad. We’ve all read the articles about the effects of screen time on children. We know the signs of tech addiction, likely because we have experienced them ourselves. The problem is not the technology itself; the problem is our dependence on it. Technology can be a useful tool in our parenting tool belt, when we use it wisely.
As in all things parenting, the goal is to nurture our children into educated, contributing members of society and build strong familial bonds. When utilized productively, technology can educate, bring families closer, and reinforce good behavior in our children.
Use technology to educate. My child is a reluctant math fact learner. Flash cards are his kryptonite. Would he rather watch two straight hours of The Clone Wars? Yes. Is he going to be able to? No. You do not have to go any further than the public school classroom to see how educators are capitalizing on our children’s fascination with clicking and swiping. They are finding ways to help them grow in their learning with the help of technology. There are endless sites, whether homeschooling or classroom educating, that can help motivate your child to learn grade-level-appropriate skills. Your child might not want to write spelling words or practice flash cards, but solving addition problems by shooting alien ships from the sky - that is something most 7 year olds can get behind.
Use technology to share an experience. In Montana where I live, we have three seasons: winter, mud, and road construction. When I lived in Arizona, we had a season called “don’t go out side or your shoes will melt.” Just kidding, but wherever you live, there is likely some point in the year when you have exhausted every board game in your house, run out of craft supplies, and the weather is too hot, cold, wet, or awful to be outside playing in the great outdoors. This might be an opportunity to use technology to share a fun experience. Find a classic movie that you watched as a child, build a fort, and eat popcorn under the blankets. Tell your child how you felt when you saw the film for the first time or laugh at how cheesy it is compared with the films of today. Break out your original Nintendo (the one with controllers that plugged in!) and Duck Hunt to your hearts content. The novelty will keep you laughing for at least twenty minutes of fun. If finances allow, go see a movie or take your kids to an arcade armed with tokens. Seeing The Force Awakens with my son this past Christmas season was a highlight of our winter break.
Use technology as a reward. Don’t act like you haven’t ever used technology to motivate yourself. How many of you are wearing a Fitbit right now? I know I have made deals with myself “I can watch TV, if I am on the elliptical while I watch.” Or if I just finish a few more chores, then I can sit and play on my phone. One of the coolest things about Kudoso is the fact that your child can earn screen time for completed tasks. Until the launch, try some simple measures. If rooms are clean, they can earn twenty minutes of screen time. If everyone pitches in for one hour to get the house cleaned, we can have a family movie night. If time is spent outside being active, let’s play thirty minutes of Mario Kart. If you finish all of your homework, you may have fifteen minutes of games on an educational site.
Technology is not the enemy, but we might be our own worst enemies when it comes to using technology wisely. As Kudoso prepares to launch, prepare your family to rule technology instead of being ruled by it.
By Jesica Swanson, Kudoso Kontributor