By Matt Scully, Director of Technology, Providence Day School
Looking forward to summer, but worried about managing your child’s screen time? Here are some tips to help your family engage with meaningful and fun technology-related projects this summer.
Have a target. It’s easy to be enticed by the featured apps in all their highlighted glory. The key is to visit the App store with something already in mind. Talk to your kids about their passions and hobbies, and then search for tools that will help them explore those interests more fully.
Give them an outlet. Does your son love seashells, or is your daughter a budding scientist? Ask them how they might want to share what they know with others. A narrated slideshow, music video, how-to tutorial, or mini-documentary are all possible with the help of technology. By giving them something to do with their passion, you open up your child’s creative possibilities.
Create a path. Once they’ve arrived at the idea, turn the device off and brainstorm ideas. What would they need to see their vision come to life? Coach them to create a storyboard – a visual map of their project from start to finish – using pencil and paper. Now you know what they’ll be working on, and can provide support along the way. You’ve also built a reason for them to show you what they’re doing online.
Keep moving forward. Playing with purpose can be a good motivator. Going to see Uncle Jack at the beach next month? Encourage your child to finish building that virtual ultimate vacation home in time to share. Not only will this create some great bonding experiences, it will also help avoid online meandering.
Have criteria. Talk to your child about their experience. Ask them to write a review of the app. What are the graphics like, was it easy to learn, and how are you better for having this app are all good ways to evaluate the merits. By involving your child in these kinds of discussions, you are also guiding them to make good technology-based decisions in the future.
Understand the motivation. Game makers and app builders leverage what they know of brain chemistry to keep us all plugged in. A sense of accomplishment in achieving progressively harder tasks is a powerful driver for many online activities. You can taper down screen time by finding offline books, games and puzzles that replicate this approach. Understanding why your child wants to go back to the screen can help you find alternatives for them to be away from it.
We can help our children find productive ways to use the tools that they want to use. Starting early, when your kids still hold an expectation that you will be involved in their activities, is a great foundation for safe and healthy online habits. Keep feeding their interests and they’ll likely stay engaged and motivated all summer – both online and off.
Some recommended apps and games:
Kami – paper folding puzzle game on iOS
i-movie – movie making on the fly with mobile app
ibook author (on apple laptops only) – build your own ibooks for friends to read on their iPads
Raspberry pi – low cost, mini computer for students interested in programming
arduino – Another low cost, mini computer starter kit for programmers
makey-makey – introductory tools for playing with circuits and programming
Scratch – beginner level programming
Providence Day Summer Programs offers several technology-focused camps and activities, including two new offerings this year: Introduction to Web Design and Video Game Makers. Information and registration available online at ProvidenceDay.org/SummerPrograms.
Matt Scully is Director of Technology at Providence Day School, and a proud parent of Abby and Hannah. He also writes a “Parenting in the Digital Age” blog.