Humans have a past with resisting change.
Around 370 BC, Socrates warned against writing because it would "create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories." People railed against the first newspapers, arguing that it socially isolated readers and would erode face-to-face communication. When radio and television arrived, many were fearful that it would distract children, diminish performance in school, and turn their brains to mush.
Now enter technology and the Internet, an endless on-demand combination of writing, radio, and television rolled into one. If anyone was going to be concerned about forgetfulness, social isolation, distraction, and mushy brains, it would be today.
Creating healthy limits around technology couldn't be more important as augmented reality and virtual reality--forecasted to generate $150 billion in revenue by 2020--become more mainstream. The next generation of entrepreneurs and employees will have to strike the right balance between interpersonal skills and participating in the most immersive virtual worlds humanity has ever seen.
Finding the right balance starts with parents.
Instead of resisting technology and today's innovation, parents must lean into it intentionally. Consider these tips to adequately raise up a high-tech and high-touch generation capable of thriving in the 21st century and beyond.
1. Educate yourself.
Encourage active educational screen time (creating, thinking, reading, interacting, etc.) over passive entertainment-based screen time (swipe-only, watching video, etc.).
Consider educational content such as Zoodles which offers thousands of free learning games, videos, and books for kids or Tiggly which allows toddlers to use physical blocks to interact with an iPad to learn words, shapes, and math. Sites like Common Sense Media can also be helpful to see reviews of the best apps for kids.
2. Share the experience.
Help your child get the most out of a smartphone or tablet by sharing in the experience (also known as "co-viewing"). Engage with your child as they try new apps or allow them to take a photo of an animal and then go online with them to explore more about the animal. An involved parent will know which devices to continue, limit, or remove.
3. Decide to disconnect.
Psychologist Yalda T. Uhls was the lead author of a study that showed after five days without screens, preteens improved in their ability to read emotional cues. Be careful to label time as "tech-free" because that could imply that tech is bad. Instead, introduce board games or puzzles and stress the importance of dialogue, focus, listening, or quiet personal reflection.
4. Establish and reestablish limits.
Much like revisiting a budget on a routine basis, the tech boundaries should be reevaluated as the technology will inevitably and quickly evolve. Dr. Carolyn Jaynes, a learning designer for Leapfrog Enterprises, says, "By age three, many children are active media users and can benefit from electronic media with educational content."
As a child is introduced to technology, practice a gradual release model where a parent allows the child more time with the device as he/she proves they can handle it.
5. Model a healthy tech diet.
Kids won't examine or adjust their technology behavior because they are concerned about how it may thwart their future ability to empathize or focus. It's a parent's responsibility to guide them and model the necessary behavior. How can someone identify the blind spots, pitfalls, and benefits of technology if they aren't actively using it themselves?
Parents must be tech-savvy in order to stay one step ahead of their kids in the real and virtual worlds of tomorrow. Parents must be equipped to intervene online if a line is crossed just as much as if a line is crossed offline.