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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

Until recently, technology (and particularly mobile technology) was reserved for adults only. But then phones turned into entertainment centers, and keyboard-free electronic tablets became portable game centers and movie theaters for even the tiniest toddlers.

In other words, they might not be able to match their clothing, but many 3 year-olds can take, save and send a picture on their parents’ iPhone. Exposing your child to media is one thing, teaching them to use media technology is quite another. Not surprisingly, developing tech literate children isn’t much different than teaching other skills or subjects.

Moreover, schools are experimenting with next generation technology in school in an effort to get kids ready for a world that is developing a muscle memory with touchpads.

Teach the Process
Being tech-savvy means controlling the process, not just enjoying the product. If you wanted someone to become a proficient cook, you wouldn’t present him with a fully cooked meal while he sat at the table. The same is true for teaching your children technology.

  • Guide your 20-month old through the process of selecting a movie instead of presenting her with the iPad after you’ve already hit play on the show she requested.
  • Start at the very beginning by guiding her tiny finger over the “unlock” button, and helping her tap the necessary movie application. Show her how to browse, and select a movie.
  • For children older than 3 years of age, you can stand at their side and teach them the proper movements without guiding their hand.
  • You’ll only need to repeat the process a few times before you turn around to find your child setting up an iPad movie completely by themselves.

Encourage Creative Media Use
Young children love taking pictures and recording videos of themselves. Encourage their creativity while teaching media technology by showing them how to properly capture, save and send photographs.

  • Phones and digital cameras indicate different functions and features with symbols and pictures, not words. This makes it possible for even the youngest kids to master their media.
  • More importantly, all electronic and digital devices share the same set of function symbols for “power on/off,” “stop,” “pause,” “play” and “rewind.” Teaching your child to use these functions correctly will enable her to use other devices as well.

Include Your Child in Your Tech-Related Tasks
Let your child help you complete daily electronic tasks while you narrate each of the individual steps. This approach works best for children who are old enough to understand directions, and who can refrain from touching the screen until you give permission.

  • Explain to your child that you’re going to show them how to send an email and that they can press some of the buttons to help you.
  • Let her open the Outlook icon. Explain that the top box is for the person to whom you’re sending the email. Allow her to move the cursor between the different boxes, provided she waits until you’ve finished typing. Write a brief, one-line email to your friend as you explain that you’re writing an email to someone. Finally, explain that the email is finished and show her how to hit send.
  • You can further improve your child’s tech literacy by letting them select and share a photo through a cloud-based file sharing program and letting them hit the send button.

Watching your child become tech literate is an exciting process that happens surprisingly quickly and can ultimately help your child develop other learning skills. While you want to encourage your child’s exploration, set clear guidelines from the beginning about which icons are off limits, such as the banking application or your work-related document folder. If possible, create a separate user option under your child’s name with only age-appropriate programs. Otherwise, a few misplaced clicks while playing digital doll dress-up can take your tech-savvy tot to a completely different, and wholly inappropriate, type of website. Clear boundaries and adult supervision must immediately follow technological competence.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to teach their toddlers about technology.

Image courtesy of Techsavveyed via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.