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A sense of responsibility bestowed upon me when I came across the term digital natives — a generation exposed to technology from their formative years. Times have changed and so have our responsibility as parents. Marc Prensky coined the term in 2001 while talking about the difference in the thinking process of the generation of early technology users to those who were not. And in explaining his viewpoint, he also introduced us to the term digital immigrants — a generation who were not born in the age of technology but introduced to it later in life. Think random requests from grandparents and parents to create email ids: worrying about internet speed as you get ready for a video interview with your prospective b-school, and the drive to earn well enough to earn your first smartphone so you can check your emails on your phone and download Bejeweled. That’s us, the digital immigrants. The parents of digital natives. The one who felt proud of creating email ids for our folks but find it hard to keep up with all the new apps your child gets to hear at school. As a mother raising two children in this ever-changing digital world, I am flummoxed by the problem of plenty. Blink an eye and you are sure to miss ten new children’s apps launched in that nano-second. Once you start skimming through the plethora of children apps, a sensation similar to drowning engulfs you. For support, you read the reviews and review the ratings, and soon after a huge tide completely submerges you in water. How do you resurface? How do you conquer this wave of language, learning, art, music and gaming apps? By going back to the basics and remembering our rules of keeping it simple. While academic professionals, teachers, occupational therapists, and caregivers have elaborate criteria for choosing an app for students, we as parents can keep the following three points in mind without getting overwhelmed while downloading the next children’s app.
Easy user interface with simple directions that will enable the child to do most of the talking or typing in this case. If an app looks like a scene out of your child’s favorite tv show, he or she doesn’t have much to do on it anyway.
Parents don’t have to be passive spectators to what a child is doing on his tablet. Add another dimension to learning and fun by choosing apps that allow you, a sibling or your child’s friends to participate actively in what your child is creating. Apps that encourage collaboration have the potential to change classroom learning and is a thrust towards building long-term collaborative skills.
An app that empowers the child to steer his imagination in all directions without distraction is a winner. Children respond to and assimilate information better when it comes to them in a relatable and impactful way. More is not necessarily better. Less is not always boring.
Shikha Das Shankar is a storyteller. Multitasking dragon slayer mom. Happy hiker. When not writing, she is seen scaling heights, literally, with her favorite trio—the son, the daughter and the husband—around the hills of beautiful Seattle suburb or cooking her favorite foods in her de-stressing zone, the kitchen.