This post is sponsored by Microsoft Education
Part of being a parent is constantly worrying about our kids and anxiety peaks when they start a new school year. Will he like his new teacher? Will her classmates be kind to her?
One concern I frequently hear from parents is how to ensure sure kids are tech savvy and competent without spending too much time in front of screens. We know technology skills are critical to 21st century learning but while there are benefits, there are also concerns.
A survey by Microsoft and YouGov amongst parents of children under 18 took a deeper look at technology, parenting, and education and found most of us are hopeful about what technology will do for our kids. When asked how parents felt about the role of technology in their child’s life as they grow older, 60% said they feel “optimistic” or “hopeful” whereas 30% reported feeling unsure or scared.
Despite not growing up with the technology our kids are using today, it’s important for us to feel in control and confident with the technology they use. Here are some resources and tips for the school year and beyond.
3 Ways to Feel Confident About Your Kid’s Technology this School Year
1. Know the Difference Between Active and Passive Screen Time
It’s not surprising most parents feel more comfortable with their kids using technology in an educational setting than in their personal time. When comparing time spent using technology between home and school, 63% of parents worry their child is spending too much time on tech at home while only 38% of parents worry their child is spending too much time on tech at school. Overall there’s agreement technology is helpful in the classroom: 86% of parents believe tech (computers and educational software) is beneficial to their child’s education.
Our worry stems from thinking our kids have turned off their brains and transformed into screen zombies. However, there’s a big difference between active and passive screen time: active screen time includes using digital devices for learning whereas passive screen time merely involves watching.
- WHAT YOU CAN DO: If you’re worried about the content your child is using, visit Common Sense Media for ratings, detailed analysis of age-appropriateness, and value of different types of media. While the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t have a specific recommendation on the number of hours for kids, they recommend using your judgement to assess when screen time becomes unproductive. Take advantage of parental control settings built into many devices and online services to set limits or use independent screen time management apps like Circle by Disney, Moment and Unglue.
2. Know Technology is Changing the Job Market for the Better
The job market is changing and it’s very likely that your child’s future job doesn’t exist today. Since it’s hard to imagine the unknown, parents are conflicted on whether technology will have a positive or negative effect on the job market their kids will enter one day. Of those surveyed, 37% said they believed technology would eliminate more jobs than it creates and 23% felt the opposite – that technology would create more jobs than it eliminates.
- WHAT YOU CAN DO: Information brings peace of mind. Check out the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, which estimates jobs won’t be eliminated, but will change over time. Just as jobs today look different than when Baby Boomers entered the work force, jobs of tomorrow may require new skills like computer programming.
3. Know You Can Positively Impact the Presence of Technology in Your Child’s Life
Parents believe computer science is the subject most critical to their kids’ long-term success, but two out of three parents (67%) say they worry the Federal and State governments aren’t doing enough to equip schools to build kids’ digital skills.
Even though survey results (shockingly) showed 14% of parents believed learning cursive and handwriting was more beneficial to their child’s future employability than coding or a foreign language (28%), half (50%) believed coding and computer programming was the most beneficial subject out of the three, and they’re right!
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 52% of job growth by the year 2020 will be in the fields of computing and mathematics. Unfortunately, while surveys show most U.S. teachers agree with this sentiment, a very small number of schools in the U.S. currently teach Computer Science, a problem tech companies and non-profits like Code.org are taking on.
- WHAT YOU CAN DO: Visit the Microsoft Digital Skills page, which includes STEM and computer science resources, including other nonprofit clubs your child can engage with, and free online resources. Volunteer to lead an Hour of Code at your child’s school this fall or take advantage of free coding workshops and apps. Free tutorials on org that students can complete on their own at home or in the classroom, (including three fun Minecraft-themed tutorials from Microsoft) have already introduced more than 95 million people to coding! If you’re looking to test the waters, look for free evening and weekend workshops at places like the Microsoft Store or your local museums and libraries
I like to say there is an entry point for every child when it comes to STEM subjects but since you never know what might stick, it’s important to provide your kids with a variety of experiences while being positive. Even if you may not feel 100 percent confident with technology yourself, you set the tone. Kids who see their parents wanting to learn with them are far more inclined to be willing to try new things, even at a young age.
This has been my philosophy with my own children, now 14 and 12. This fall my daughter will start high school in a magnet engineering program where she hopes to become more proficient in STEM subjects like computer programming languages. Even though I grew up around computers, technology has changed since I was a child. One of the best things I’ve done is encouraged and supported her while she learns life-long skills needed for a successful future.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 3927 adults, of which 1011 were parents of children under 18. Fieldwork was undertaken between 2nd – 6th August 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults.
I collaborated with Microsoft on this sponsored post but all opinions are my own.