Where do kids fit into the diagram below? The diagram is based on adults’ use- which most of our information about online activity is about. However children’s use in comparison is much more narrow.
My research shows that for children under 12 years, their top uses of the internet are YouTube, Google searches, App store and Netflix.
YouTube tops the list! It is the number 1 choice for kids. Most children watch it instead of traditional TV.
And what they do on YouTube varies. Many children use it to find out new information, to watch videos or view user-generated content. Many children aspire to and increasingly do upload their own videos. Many of these are creative acts with which encourage independent, focused learning. This is good.
Family homes are now inundated with arguments about kids online. There is tension that children are wasting their time on their device and that they should be doing more creative or educational things instead.
Our dominating concern for getting kids off their screen can deter us from seeing the good in what children are actually enjoy doing with their screen.
An important part of helping kids to learn is to build on their interests. A great way to do this is to share some of their interests and help build their understanding of them. This works just as well for online activities as it does for traditional ones. For example if your child is searching YouTube for how to make origami models (which is a very popular kid’s YouTube pastime!) then share some of this interest with them. Help them look up videos; make some models with them. Use this activity, which starts online, to build your relationship with each other.
Children’s online activity doesn’t have to be a parent free zone. The most empowering way to have technology in the family home is think of it as an extension of the other interests your children have and the guidance you give them; not as a separate and detached part of family life that is always a negative.