Why Giving Your Kids A Holiday Gadget Curfew Isn't The Right Solution
Have you had arguments about the time your kids spend on gadgets? Have you been looking to channel gadget time into something more useful or productive? If so, you've probably considered the popular new idea of a "gadget curfew."
Each year during the holidays we will inevitably buy the children in our lives a new tablet or laptop, video game console, smart phone or other piece of ever-evolving modern technology. This is fantastic! We are now giving these kids the tools they need to experience the internet and unique experiences that technology creates for us (something that did not exist when many of us were children).
The problem is that this technology can actually be viewed in two different ways. As a tool for learning, fun and innovation, or as a mind-numbing distraction. Those that see technology as the latter may choose to impose limitations on the use of this technology for their children. That's where the idea of the gadget curfew comes from. However, I'm afraid that imposing limitations may be counter-intuitive to many of the benefits that children could achieve by utilizing new technologies. Let me explain...
The case against a gadget curfew
This year, I got my nephews a quadcopter (please don't tell them!) — a remote control drone — so they can experience the joy of controlling a flying object using technology. I thought they could attach a small camera to it and take aerial views of the neighborhood. I imagined them carrying out other exciting projects with it as well. As you can probably tell, I really like the idea of equipping them with a tool that encourages them to innovate and execute thoughtful projects using technology. However, we have to guard against the obvious issues with technology as gifts.
We have to show our kids how they can be very creative and learn with these tools. Without that, there is a real danger of the kids just using the technology to spend hours on social networking sites or playing a repetitive or a luck-based game or watching a million episodes of SpongeBob; or whichever TV series your kids get addicted to. This is why the idea of a gadget curfew exists.
Repetitive, uninspired behaviors offer no developmental or enriching experience for children. For instance, if we gift an iPad to a child and that results in nothing more than the kid playing a couple of games over and over again, and watching hundreds of hours of a cartoon TV series, I believe we have not done enough to arm that child with the right use of technology. In fact, we may have actually hindered the child by taking hundreds of hours of their precious time and helping them dedicate it to something that may ultimately hinder their learning ability and creativity.
The right approach
Kids are impressionable and very fast learners, therefore it is critical to channel the hours and hours of time they spend on gadgets with the right tools and coaching. This turns that time into learning and creativity — they may actually amaze you with what they can do.
While technology can be a great gift and a great investment, we need to step up our game as the guardians of their minds. We need to ensure that not only do our kids have all the tool and gadgets they need to experience technology but that they also have the skills and guidance to create experiences that will ultimately be enriching and intellectually rewarding in the future.
Why this same perspective can be applied to event technology
Now I know this seems like a far reach, but the truth is that the gut reaction that leads us to believe that our children need a gadget curfew is the same sentiment that leads many to adopt poor practices with their event technology. Many event businesses (venues, trade shows, exhibitions, conferences, etc.) all require a lot of moving parts to be working seamlessly. In the current climate, this is especially true; as the top event businesses are seeking out new ways that they can do even more to grow the organization. This means improving sales team performance, streamlining operations and more.
There is no better tool equipped for this job than the innovative new technology solutions that the event technology world is currently cooking up; however in the same way that your kids can use an iPad for intellectually stimulating activities of mind-numbing dribble, event technology can be used to drive these businesses forward or simply eat up more of their time and resources.
This is why expert implementation and training for any technology solution is so important. Beyond that, businesses must look at their processes and understand how the technology can actually help them. In the same way that parents must see the potential of the technology and guide their children in how it's used, event business leaders must also help equip their teams with the proper technology, processes and direction necessary to execute revenue growing behavior.
Ultimately, it's up to each individual business to evaluate their processes and understand what new technologies may exist out there to help them solve problems more creatively and efficiently. We just finished announcing a brand new innovative exhibitions product at Ungerboeck, and have been working to help streamline how venues operate for decades. There's a place for this new technology in almost every event business. It just takes the right vision to see how it creatively help grow the organization.
To change subjects again, I thought it might be fun to share some innovative and creative technology gift ideas for children this year. Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Technology gifts for kids
Here are the types of things that kids 8-16 years of age can do that I have personally experienced with my boys:
A course here costs around $200. My favorite courses are the ones that use Minecraft to let kids loose with java programming.
Although Treehouse is not targeted just to kids, we found that it's great to teach kids how to create websites using WordPress and learning HTML\CSS etc. It costs about $25\month.
In the Apple store, this app costs around $5 but opens a huge world of musical instruments. What an amazing musical tool this is. You can add tracks, rhythms and sing your made up songs, then combine it all together.
Haven’t we all played pretend as kids? We all wore costumes, had guns and swords, built houses etc. Now kids can actually do that, capture it on camera, get sound effects and make a real movie. This can be hours and hours of creative and collaborative fun with gadgets.
If you want the kids to play with some hardware and not just programming and software, Littlebits is a great activity — although it needs some patience to get going with it. For me, it did not come with a project book or instructions. It also has a kit called cloudbits that gives your hardware internet connectivity.
6. Raspberry Pi
I have not done much with this yet except to follow the developments with it. Now there is a new little computer on a chip for less than $5. This is very popular in the UK and has its own magazine that I plan on getting soon. There are hundreds of interesting projects that can be done with these. I encourage you to Google it.
It is really important for guardians to show children the right path to harness new technology. It is not enough to buy these gifts. You have to commit to doing the first few hours of work together. These few hours will be more valuable than the gift itself. That will be your true gift. One that could reshape the future of this child's life. The same goes for event businesses and their approach to technology. It takes leadership and vision to drive progress in the lifespans of both.
If you value channeling the tech time of today's kids into learning and creativity, please share this link. What ideas have you run into? Feel free to comment here. Who knows? As we get closer to the Holidays, I might be inspired to write a follow-up post!