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Parents vs Tech During The Summer

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When I was growing up the summer was about sleeping in, road trips, and time spent at camps. There was a lot of downtime when I could hang out with friends at the playground and have “picnics” at the park behind our apartment building. I say that lightly because our picnics consisted of candy, chips and Twinkies. We had time to whittle away and talk about movies, rock stars and boys.

At night we would have sleep-overs or pick up the phone and call each other to talk much ado about nothing late into the night. Those were some fabulous days with unforgettable memories. There was no Snapchat, no Discord, no TikTok, and definitely no Instagram. As parents today, we long for those summer days but we all know our kids are the tech generation.

How do we find a balance and keep the peace during the summer months?

We can only stick them into summer camps for as many weeks as our wallets allow and we only have so many vacation days to take.

A new survey shows Canadian parents are concerned about their children’s tech usage in the summer months but also know tech skills are important for kids to learn.

Majority of Canadian parents (64%) are concerned with their child’s technology usage this summer. 51.4% of parents do not have a plan in place or are uncertain how to manage their child’s technology use this summer.

78% of parents are interested in learning how to build a healthy relationship between their child and technology. 93% of parents also believe that technology is important for children to understand as it is the future.  So what’s the solution?

We checked in with Makerkids, a Toronto-based tech education company and the first-ever maker space for kids in North America for some advice. Led by one of Canada’s most interesting “Women-in-tech”, CEO Jennifer Turliuk (Nasa Singularity Graduate & Profiled in Forbes Magazine), MakerKids is breaking tech boundaries especially for girls but also empowering all kids to be creators, not just consumers.

 

It’s summer, and we want our kids to enjoy the months off and get fresh air, how do us parents find that balance of play before another day slips by?

If your child loves learning about technology, I would recommend a summer camp like Makerkids, that offers both outdoor and indoor activities, where screen time is monitored and use of technology is productive and safe. We have seen kids build confidence, resilience and apply their STEM skills to create amazing things. We’ve even had a child win a NASA award for an autonomous rover, and others who’ve been featured in magazines and on tv, or started their own businesses!

 

What are a few of your favourite apps/ games  for young kids during the summer months?

Some of our favourite apps include Stencyl and Scratch that help kids learn to code by creating games (which we also teach as part of our curriculum), and a Screen Time app for parents.

 

As parents, we often use an iPad to keep our kids entertained and quiet. We use it on road trips , restaurants, when we’re making dinner etc . Sometimes we feel guilty but really we need a break. Thoughts?

There’s no doubt technology is here to stay, setting reasonable, healthy limits is key, as is ensuring safe, monitored use. Beyond this, research shows it’s actually how your child is using the device that counts towards their wellbeing. Your child can choose to watch YouTube videos or actually learn something from their screen time. Researchers have found that how children use their devices, not how much time they spend on them, is the strongest predictor of how screen time will affect them. When they choose something active they can avoid many problems associated with passive screen time, like obesity. We often post advice on our blog, including summer tech tips for parents.

 

We know that time spent in front of the screen should be limited for kids, what are some ways we can set those guidelines without resistance?

Educating your children on why it’s important and having the conversation with them to come up with a schedule that works for everyone. Screen time should also be broken down, limiting time spent alone on a screen and instead spending that time together. We tell parents to be proactively involved in their child’s tech usage by doing educational activities with them, teach them to be creators not just consumers – it’s a great way to spend time with your child, monitor what they are doing, discover their interests, and create something awesome together.

 

Games like Minecraft seems to be addicting for many kids and we know parents who are against it, but there is good life skills that are learned from playing. What can you tell us? 

Minecraft is an incredibly popular game, and now a mandatory school subject in Finland. We use it in a safe, controlled environment, as a medium to help kids build transferable skills such as coding, electronics, 3D design, servers, and more. We leverage kids’ interest in Minecraft as a gateway to introduce them to other STEM topics such as Robotics and Coding. Minecraft is also a great medium for teaching positive netizen skills and communication skills. Kids build amazing digital creations together.

 

For younger children it’s much easier to set the guidelines and even suggest activities like incorporating outdoor fun. What about older kids like tweens? They can be a little more defiant. Any advice on dealing with this age group?

We’ve found great success in our programs with this age group. The key here is engaging kids, in a fun, creative way that is relevant to them. Giving them choices and letting them make their own decisions is key. Our award-winning STEM curriculum is self-directed and project-based, so kids work at their own pace. Our highly trained instructors inspire and mentor them along the way. I would suggest to parents to take a similar approach, by letting kids be involved in setting the guidelines and what are acceptable activities at the outset (within reason of course).

 

*Interview with Jennifer Turiliuk with additional response from Aimée Savard, Owner, MakerKids Leaside

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Sonya Davidson

Sonya is an established lifestyle writer based in Toronto with a strong interest in how technology is incorporated into the everyday. She’s passionate about the story behind the scenes and will also report on special events and launches. Her passions include family, arts, food, and travel. Sonya also contributes to several media outlets nationally.