Why does it seem like kids can run circles around parents on virtually any kind of tech? It’s intuitive for digital natives, and often foreign for those of us trying to “lead” them.
A few years ago, I had an epiphany about WHY kids just seem to “get it.” The answer came from a comment I heard Matt McKee make, co-author of Parenting in a Tech World and SVP at Bark Technologies. He basically broke it down to one word: CURIOSITY.
Parents fundamentally approach tech with very pragmatic goals, asking, “What can this technology do FOR me?” Productivity is often the end goal. However, kids and teens are curious about all of the (possibly unnecessary) things technology COULD or WILL do, if we try something new. This curiosity motivates them to keep searching, keep trying, keep discovering, and keep learning.
LIFE 360 AT A HIGHER LEVEL
For example, for the last couple of weeks our oldest son has been playing a group game with about 50 kids from his senior class all over our city using water guns and Life360 for teams to track and“kill” their opponents. For the uninitiated, Life360 is an app that a lot of parents use once their kids start driving to track their driving habits (speed, acceleration, hard breaking) as well as their whereabouts (getting alerts when they arrive at school or work, etc.). It’s a great tool that our family uses daily. However, I only keep track of two people on my app, and I pay for the level of access I have.
Apparently these students (and kids all over the US, according to social media), curious about what Life360 could DO, figured out that they could add each other to their GPS tracking without messing up the interface their parents use. They have been tracking and chasing each other all over Nashville to eliminate teams of students with water guns, and some hilarious hijinks have ensued. You have to video your “kill” and the videos are posted on the Class of 2023 GroupMe (app), so everyone gets to see the shenanigans.
Pretty genius, right?
Last week, my son came home from school and was getting ready to leave for work when he was notified on Life360 three classmates were driving on the main road by our house. “They’re coming for me, mom!” I was skeptical. “They’re probably just headed home themselves.” Then he saw their dots turn up our dead-end road. Uh-oh, he was right! Now I was involved in the adrenaline of the espionage. We had about two minutes to come up with a plan. His younger brother looks a lot like him, so they decided he would be a decoy. My sophomore put on the clothes his older brother had just changed out of, and by now there were three Life360 dots right outside my house. We could hear them walking through our side lawn to try to go around back. My boys quickly concocted a plan for younger brother to run out of the house and draw their fire, so older brother could come behind them and nail them with his squirt gun. Their plan worked perfectly, they got it all on video, and it was a super fun experience. I was thankful I got to be there when it all went down!
So let this be a challenge to all of us. How can we as parents be MORE curious, especially about the tech our kids are using. Here are some questions posed in Parenting in a Tech World that are great starters.
What is the craziest thing your friends are doing right now?
Can you teach me how…?
If you could create anything, what would it be and why?
And one last nugget from the book, a reminder that conversations lead to discovery. As our kids turn into teenagers and then young adults, they can be harder to engage in conversation. We have to be intentional conversation starters. Find the pockets of time to engage them and dive into their world.
Let your kids show you something new they’ve learned on technology this week. I promise you they’ve got something to share.