Technology Not Always Negative Influence on Kids

A lot can be learned on computers if you help guide your kids.
Daddyderek May
Photo by Derek James
Learning basic code is standard protocol for children and something many consider a must-know skill.

I recently went to my kids’ school to have lunch with each of my boys. When it was time to sit down with my third grader, he introduced me to his “girlfriend.” It was my first time meeting her. One of the first things she asked me was whether or not I was “funny like Tyler?” Tyler is my older son. He jumped in before I could respond, answering, “Oh yeah. He’s funny on TV every day.” His girlfriend excitedly asked, “Oh, you have you own YouTube Channel?”

“No. I’m on TV,” I replied. “Channel 18.” Learning I wasn’t on YouTube, this 9-year-old girl gave me one of the most disappointed looks I’ve ever seen. It was the kind of look I imagine she’d give if she were told she had to go to summer school.

It was at that moment that I realized that I may need a YouTube Channel, and that today’s kids are growing up with so many more media options (distractions) than I did. I consider myself something of a media junkie. When I was a kid, we had three TV channels to choose from — 25 when we were stealing cable — local radio, magazines and newspapers. My kids have hundreds of TV channels, a DVR, on-demand options, Netflix, satellite radio, the internet and so many other choices. Not to sound like Dana Carvey’s Saturday Night Live “Grumpy Old Man” character, but in my day, we had no ability to ‘surf’ for content. There wasn’t a place to go for videos of people playing video games or to watch weirdos lay in bathtubs full of spaghetti.

I didn’t get really comfortable with computers until I was a teen. My 7- and 9-year-old sons have already done more at their school with Google Docs than I have at work. What’s more, they are already learning basic coding with something called Bitsbox. I have no idea if my boys will ever become coders, but there are many who believe that in 20 years, people who can’t code will be considered illiterate.

As someone who learned video and audio editing in middle and high school, I can tell you that kids can never start too early if the interest is there. That huge head start I had with technology served me well. To this day, I still edit much of my own video. It’s a skill at which very few colleagues in my position know how to do.

We often make the assumption as parents that all time kids spend on a computer is play, but there is an awful lot that can be learned on computers if you help guide your kids along the way. Let’s be real, though — you can’t leave them to their own devices, so to speak. You can’t assume that they’ll always be diligently working on developing those coding skills or doing research for a project. I know, because I may have spent some time I should’ve been using to edit a video project chatting with girls on AOL instead. Now online chats can lead to A/S/L questions (age/sex/location). That’s why I’m not a fan of having a computer or any devices in a kid’s bedroom until they’re in high school and have earned the privilege.

I believe it’s important that we cut our kids some slack when it comes to all this technology. I’ve seen adults more addicted to their devices than their kids. Some high schoolers are ditching social media because they are seeing and experiencing the adverse effects of excessive technology firsthand. There’s no dancing around it. When it comes to technology, we are living in an exciting time. Just as our kids help open new windows (no pun intended) for us, so we can help guide their path forward. In the end, everyone benefits.

Now I wonder how many pounds of spaghetti it would take to fill my bathtub?

Derek James is a host of WCCB News Rising. He and his wife live in Charlotte with their two sons who are age 9 and 7.