Kids And Technology-Stop With The Limits Already!

Kids And Technology-Stop With The Limits Already!
George Rudy/
Summary: Kids and technology. Do parents really need another article on how to police their kids on the net? Why not have marvelous fun on the internet as a family?

Benefits Of Exposing Kids To Technology

If you Google "kids and technology", you’ll find a gazillion articles about how parents can police their digital native children. There are tips on how to limit a child’s use of technology, and there are tips on safe browsing. That’s not what this piece is about.

The need to impose limits and ensure the safety of children on the net is without a doubt, a popular topic and an important one. What you won’t see, however, is a single article extolling the positive side of kids and technology and technology and the family. I know because I looked.

So here you go—a blog piece about using technology to enrich family life. Think about it: technology surely did more than drive people away from each other and toward their machines. Technology has also widened the horizons of what the members of a family can share with each other. Computers and smartphones expanded the boundaries of communication and knowledge. Instead of worrying only about limits, families should also consider what they can explore and learn together as a result of technology.

Let’s start with vocabulary enrichment. How many times has your child asked you about the definition of an unfamiliar word? Conscientious parents have always told their children to look it up. But kids loathe dragging out the dictionary. It may seem like too much work.

Computers solve that problem. Mozilla Firefox has a Merriam-Webster add-on for the search box on the browser toolbar. Show your child how to copy and paste the word into the search box to find the definition. Next time your child asks you about the definition of a word, you can remind him about the search box. Instead of sighing and saying, "Never mind", he’s more likely to go actually look up the word since he can do it with technology. It’s just more fun and less labor intensive.

Not using Firefox? No problem. Just bookmark the Merriam-Webster website and put the link on your browser toolbar. The idea is to make the dictionary accessible for your child.

Is your child stumped about the pronunciation of a word? Each word definition comes with a little speaker icon. Click the icon to hear the word said aloud.



Is your child looking for examples on how to use the word or curious about the origins of a word? It’s all there below the word definitions (rhymes, too). There are even quizzes and articles if your kid totally gets into etymology (look it up).


If your child needs to write a paper, the Merriam-Webster website is a big help in showing your child how to rephrase texts in order to avoid plagiarism. There’s a thesaurus tab on the website which offers synonyms, related words, near antonyms, and antonyms. It takes some practice to learn how to use a real thesaurus with pages. But the Merriam-Webster website makes it easy-peasy for kids to find the words they need.



But let’s move on. Say your child asks you a question: "Where do aardvarks live?".

How should you respond?

Don’t spoon-feed your child the answer. Rather, show him how you would use the computer to find it yourself. You say, "Let’s look it up together".

Go to Google and type in "aardvark habitats", and you’ll uncover a treasure trove! Remember how it was in the old days? You had to dig around the card catalog in a library and hope you would find a book or 2 or 3. But Google gives you endless results, and they’re fabulous.

Look through them together and enjoy the experience of learning a subject as parent and child. The first site that comes up in Google for this writer is, for instance, one where there's a wonderful photo at the top of the page and a fun fact [1]: the aardvark’s tongue can be up to 12 inches long. Get out a ruler to show your child what that looks like. Measure your own tongues, first your own, then his, enlisting your child’s help. Contrast and compare. Get silly and giggle. You’re both learning and it’s fun.

And what about just keeping in touch? Skype means that even if you live on the West Coast and your child’s grandparents live on the East Coast, there’s no need to have a communication gap. Tooth fall out? Help your child grin a toothless grin for Grandma via Skype. New braces? Another milestone in the evolution of your child’s smile for Grandma to see. With Skype, she needn’t miss a thing.

As for immediate families, Whatsapp is a wonderful way to stay in touch. You can make a group list and name it (for instance) "Smith Family". Whenever one of you sends out a message to this address, it will go out to the entire family. That’s a convenience when you want to get a message out to everyone all at once, "Go outside. There’s the most fabulous sunset u have 2 c 2 believe!".

Now that’s sharing.

But that’s only the beginning. When your child asks you, "Where did you go to school when you were a little girl?" just head on over to Google Maps and type in the name of your school. In my case, that would be Wightman School in Pittsburgh. The minute you begin typing, Google tries to anticipate what you want. So even if my frenzied brain couldn’t remember the name of the street my school was on or what the school is called today, Google covered for me, filling in the missing memory gaps.

I clicked on Google’s correct guess and, suddenly, I had a preview with an option to click for the street view of my old elementary school (for some reason, I was shown the back of the school—so I showed my child how to move the cursor to see the front of the school and then I showed my son the field where we did sports, across the street from the entrance). It was a nice trip down memory lane.

You can do the same thing if you’re going on a business trip. You can show your child exactly where you’ll be. Is the family moving? Help your child get acclimated to her future neighborhood by showing her around with Google Street View. Or show her the home of her favorite author.

Is your daughter in love with the Brontë Sisters? Type "Brontë Parsonage Museum" into Google Maps and click "photo tour". Beginning to get the idea?

The internet is a wondrous place. You can never run out of things to do and learn. The main thing is to accentuate the positive and learn to explore this vast treasure trove in family togetherness.

Happy surfing!


[1] Aadvark - African Wildlife Foundation

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