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Raising literate and tech literate kids

A recent BBC article explored the significance of an OECD study into the online behaviour of young people in different social circumstances. The research looked at over 40 different countries and revealed that whilst teenagers from poorer and richer families spent similar amounts of time online, the former were more inclined to spend that time playing games and messaging while the latter were more likely to use the internet for learning activities like reading the news.

Why would that be?

The suggestion is that while internet access is potentially very beneficial to young people, social divisions in society spill over into online life. Those with stronger literacy skills (often those from wealthier sections of society) reap more benefit from their technology use, being more motivated to seek out learning opportunities or solutions to their problems online on account of the ease with which they can engage with such material.

Obviously this report deals in generalisations and there will be plenty of individual cases which go against these trends. Also, it seems unlikely that young people choose one or the other of these two sorts of internet use; experience suggests they engage in both, just to differing degrees.

What can we do?

So what can we do as parents to make sure that our kids get the best out of the technology available to them?

The primary recommendation coming out of the report is to emphasise and invest in literacy skills over internet access. This doesn’t mean removing access, or undervaluing its importance, just prioritising literacy. In practical terms this could mean a renewed effort to encourage our children to read and write for themselves. There are a lot of resources out there offering suggestions and materials for achieving this, including a number of literacy apps. In theory, boosting our kids literacy levels should have knock-on consequences for the benefit they’re able to gain from technology use.

Another option open to us is to try to model and encourage internet use that takes advantage of more than just the gaming and social elements. Encourage your kids to use the internet for homework research and if needed sit with them and demonstrate what that might look like. Even better, if an internet search can help them resolve a problem or a question that’s not connected to a compulsory task (like homework), this can help them to see how applicable and useful the internet can be to them personally.

Again, there are a lot of resources out there that propose ways to build up your child’s technological literacy while also keeping them safe online, not least this blog!

Boost screen time quality

In many ways this research echoes the understanding that improving the quality of screen time is more important than restricting the quantity for ensuring that children benefit from it and are not harmed. Kidslox recognises the importance that both of these elements have for the concerned parent and that’s why the app’s two main functions involve limiting screen time and controlling what apps and features are available to children at different times. In addition we offer recommendations here on the blog for apps which we consider to offer “healthy screen time”.

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