When Parents Lead, Children Succeed

B2W OpEd - The B2W Perspective on Digital Technology for Babies and Kids

Many parents today wouldn’t offer a second thought to giving a child of any age a technology device (smart phone, tablet, etc.) to “play” with. In fact, there are many who are convinced their children must engage with these devices early in order to get ahead for school, for their futures even.

Birth2Work, however, posits that any technology simplistic enough in its interface that a baby or young child can manipulate it is not actually a teaching tool. Breaking the gadget apart, learning about its components, and reassembling it – like the engineers that first created the device – is an actual learning experience. Of course, babies and young children aren’t yet of mind and body to do that. So what good is interfacing with a bit of technology that a baby can easily use and will be outdated in just a few years anyway?

We are attempting to educate and prepare students today so that they are ready to enter the workforce, solve future problems not yet identified, using technologies not yet invented, based on scientific knowledge not yet discovered.

In 2009, one of the nation's leading authorities on media literacy education, Renee Hobbs, was a guest on Birth2Work Radio. Consider that just 4 years ago, the question under debate for many parents was if it was a good idea for kids under the age of 10 to have internet enabled computers in their bedrooms (LISTEN: Renee Hobbs on B2W Radio, segment 4, starting at 33:20). So rapidly does technology advance, the question parents now face is whether or not it’s appropriate to put a tech device in the hands of a 6-month old baby as a “learning tool”.

Technology changes rapidly. The skills that children need to be successful in school, and later in the workforce, are learned from human engagement and real life experiences from infancy onward. The first designers and engineers of the tech devices the world enjoys today did not learn to create, collaborate with a team, or think creatively by playing with apps at home when they were babies. Real life experiences and mentors taught them how to apply what they knew creatively; to solve problems through innovation as opposed to “Googling” for answers.

Birth2Work’s position is not to shield young people from digital technology as a hard rule, but to favor each opportunity to teach them, guide or mentor them with real world experiences first. Utilization of digital technology from infancy is not necessary for creating the thoughtful, capable, innovators of tomorrow. Parents and community leaders, working together and engaging directly with young people, are what they need for future success.