Kids and Tech Finale: 3 Core Principles | WBEZ
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Note to Self

Kids and Tech Finale: 3 Core Principles

From the mouths of babes:

"You should only put limits on the amount of useless stuff you do on the Internet. If you're doing something useful... keep going by all means. If you want to spend your time on Instagram, go outside."

— Jake Lang, 12-year-old student at Quest to Learn School in New York

We're at the end of our education and technology series, and we've talked with a whole lot of people: parents, special needs counselors, teachers, privacy advocates, and even an app maker

By now, we know a few things about kids and tech. For one, screen time is on the rise. Kids aged 5 to 16 spend an average of six and a half hours in front of a screen per day. That is a huge jump from 20 years ago when the average was three hours. We know 95 percent of teenagers use the Internet, and we know that as of summer 2014, 78 percent of teens have cell phones, and half of them are smartphones. We know suburban kids are most likely to have computers and phones. And we know even the most income-strapped families are starting to rely on mobile devices.

But we still don't know how this massive change affects our kids' futures. In fact, without yet-to-be-invented-crystal-ball-technology, we can't.  

So what do we do with all of the uncertainty?

The best answer we could come up with: Actually talk to kids. 

This week, that's exactly what we did. We share some takeaways from our New Tech City classroom survey with a guide to parenting, teaching, and anyone who's going to come in contact with inhabitants of that new digital world.

Here are the big ones:

1. Don't be alarmist.

Cyberbullying and sexting and all of that are real, but not universal, and it's impossible to gauge the scope of the problems without doing some real, open-minded, first-person research. That's what we believe in. That, and having their backs, technologically or otherwise. 

2. Kids and adults are in a new partnership. Embrace it.

Gone are the days of authoritarian "Father Knows Best." Setting rules on Facebook or curtailing YikYak or banning Instagram can work, but chances are, the ones actually using those platforms will be able to get around it if they want to. 

But you also can’t think “oh, well they’re digital natives,” they’ll figure it out. The mere presence of a smartphone or laptop doesn't mean a kid knows how to research, write, or communicate, or protect themselves on it. Don't assume.

3. Remember, kids are seeing a different world than you did at this age.

This has surfaced in every story in our series (Braille! Data! Blended learning!). So it's not just fun to talk to kids about their phones and their games, it's important. We can't decide what's best for them without their input.   Dozens of listeners have opened the conversation, and hey, you can too. Let us know how it goes!

And finally, in case you missed it: 

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