It annoys many parents to see their children glued to their phones, tablets, or laptops all the time. “What on earth do you do on it the whole day?” we ask in exasperation.
If only all of us knew the power and the lure of technology. We can see our kids are inseparable from their gadgets, but instead of looking at their smartphones as some sort of a bad influence, you do have the choice to view them as an ally to help you bring your child’s lifestyle on track.
How will you do it? By inculcating good technology habits in your children, because – let’s face it – technology is here to stay. If they are going to be so glued to their gadgets all the time anyway, we might as well make it productive.
Here are a few ways you can accomplish this and in the process raise your kids to be well-rounded individuals.
Use Tech for All-round Performance
Anyone interested in improving their productivity and lifestyle must check out this space. Put simply, these apps are geared to help you improve your life, your habits, your time management skills, and everything you can possibly imagine.
Get your children basic smartphones and install productivity apps on them: apps that track their habits, their sleep, their health, and everything they put in their mouth.
For example, Habit Flow helps its users learn new habits, tracks their progress, and stay focused. All you have to do is simply enter the habit you want your child to learn (or the one they want to learn) and set reminders. The app will remind your kid of the habit that is due each day and show them the progress they have made in cultivating the habit thus far.
Sleep as Android is a sleep cycle tracking app which informs users of their sleeping cycles, sleep deficits, and also contains nature-sounding lullabies that aid sleep. Sound sleep is very important for growing children. When they see that they haven’t been sleeping as much as they should have, they are more likely to make the effort to go to bed on time and wake up on time.
MyFitnessPal is great for teenagers who are struggling with weight problems and addiction to track their food consumption and work out patterns. (They also have a big database of Indian foods.)
For teenagers addicted to YouTube, suggest Ted Talks. These talks by some of the finest personalities of our times stimulate the mind and encourage kids to think out of the box.
For preschool children, Kids Reading app is a great way to learn new words by blending sounds.
Want your child to learn how to get the pronunciation of each and every word right? Turn to Sounds: The Pronunciation App for it. A regular use of this app will bring a considerable improvement in your child’s diction and pronunciation of English words.
Encourage your children to keep a journal (via any of the several diary or note taking apps, such as Evernote) and chronicle in them their daily routines.
“How many hours did I study today? What did I eat? Did I exercise at all? Why not? What was holding me back? Had a fight in school? Why? I had promised I would not bunk maths tuition, why did I do it?”
Don’t judge them for their answers – that is not the point of this exercise. Journalling will encourage accountability. When you have in front of you (written in a fun and neatly designed app), there is little scope for excuses. Your child will be forced to face up to the truth instead of telling lies to themselves (and you) about where their efforts really stand.
Then there are personal finance apps. If you give your kids regular pocket money, have them keep a good track of where their expenses are going. My Expenses is an easy to use Windows phone app and a great way for you to get your children into the habit of keeping a track of the pocket money they receive and how they spend it.
Few kids will like this to begin with but you need to persist, ever so gently. Think about the long-term positives of inculcating personal accountability in your children. It’s one trait that will serve them well for all their lives.
A Boon for Creative Types
Growing up, my parents weren’t very supportive of my creative inclinations since they thought it would take my focus away from where it should be – my studies. Thankfully, Indian parents have come some (I wouldn’t say a long) way from that type of thinking, and encouraging kids to pursue their hobbies is becoming increasingly acceptable across demographics.
If you’re one such parent to a creatively-inclined child, you should encourage them to use technology to pursue their hobbies.
If your child loves photography, install photo-editing software such as Adobe Photoshop Touch on your home PC to help her learn the tricks of the trade.
If you can afford a tablet, buy one for home purposes and install creative apps and games on it. Mathematical puzzles for kids who love playing with numbers, riddles and scrabble for word lovers, mystery games for those with inquisitive streaks.
For the bookworms, install classics on your tablet/laptop in the form of ebooks (should be available for free) and encourage your children to read them a couple of hours every week. Gutenberg is a great place to read and download classics and now they also have their own dedicated app.
There are also apps available that help children pen down poetry, create stories, make sketches – a great gift for the O’Henrys and Picassos of tomorrow!
Sketch Guru turns your tablet into a sketch book and has a wide variety of brushes for your child to experiment with.
Instant Poetry is a delight for creative minds. The app throws up random words which can then be arranged by your children to create rhymes and verses.
Games like Mystery Case Files Huntsville sharpen kids’ observation powers, while mystery games like Notre Dame: Secrets of Paris are not just fun but also widen children’s general knowledge by teaching them about things and places they didn’t know. Such games also make you think strategically in order to make the most of the time available in the game to crack the mysteries.
Regulate Their Smartphones/Tablets
You need to keep an eye on how much time your children are spending on the internet and what they are doing with their phones if you choose to buy these devices for them. Don’t give them any credit to recharge their balance unless they run it by you. Insist on going through their phones every now and then to make sure no dodgy activity is taking place.
Your kids will not like this but so be it. They don’t know any better, but as their parents you do. And you must show them how it’s done.
Clamp Down on the Use of Social Media
This is the biggest fear parents have when deciding to buy their children a new phone, that they will spend hours gossiping on Whatsapp or Facebook.
A good way to keep tabs on your children’s online activity is to go through their data usage. It tells you clearly where your child has been spending their time online. Any good data tracking app will do this for you easily.
My Data Manager is an excellent android app for this purpose. It tells the user exactly how much data they have consumed and which apps have been using most of that data. As a parent, that’s a great way for you to know how your child has been spending their time online.
If you find they are spending a lot of time on a social network, don’t hesitate on making them delete their account. There’s absolutely nothing worthwhile going on in these networks anyway and even adults find it difficult to stop wasting their time there.
Be the tech gatekeeper for your kid
For technology to be put to good use, you will have to be in charge of it in your house. All the rules pertaining to the use of tablets, smartphones, and the internet accessible to your kids will be laid down by you.
And it is within this regulated space that the many options for helping your child’s all-round growth will emerge, and be put to good use. It all begins with you though. Technology is evolving at a great pace and as parents you will have to make it a priority to keep yourself abreast of it, or your children will find easy ways to fool you about what they are doing on their phones. Any tool is only as good as the use it is put to. So lead by example and show your kids how to use this technology for their overall betterment.