Let’s talk about kids a little bit. My kids.
How Kids Use Screens Today Entertain Themselves
My kids love to play Minecraft. It started couple of years ago with my 9 years old, and now his younger brothers play as well, even the 5 years old. They take their imaginary worlds of knights, secret agents, family and astronauts and give it form and shape.
Another favorite game of theirs is making films with the iPad. They write the scripts, dress in costumes and act. One of them films while the others act, and then they switch. Sometimes they ask me to film all three of them in a real big-budget 3-player movie.
Then they sit for hours, opening all sorts of apps to edit their movie. They cut and paste and move and add the after-effects of animations, music, sounds—just like real post-production for a real movie.
I can hear the complaining already. “So when kids use screens, they don’t need to imagine any more…what a shame…”
On the contrary! They imagine all they want, and they can now make it come alive. It no longer only lives in their hearts or minds. They have the tools to easily bring it to life and share it with others.
How do they even know how to use these things? I didn’t teach them. I haven’t played a minute of Minecraft in my life.
A third favorite game at home is ‘design your application’. They take pencil and paper (yes! real paper, that you actually write on!) and they draw their own games and applications, just like they use in Minecraft or on the iPad. They invent rules and actions and draw the screen and all the buttons.
“Here you press to add more power and you can see it on the small screen there,” my 7 years old explains to me his new Knights vs. Pirates game.
Changing Technology Changes the Way Kids Play—and That’s Not a Bad Thing
Today’s kids have access to tools that were built specifically to be easy for them to use. The tools have good UX, are accessible in any device, and usually are free of charge. With tools like these so readily available, kids become digitally savvy, almost as a second nature.
For these kids, the screens are an integral part of their lives. They don’t know something else. A game can be played with a screen, an answer to a question can be checked with a screen, mommy and daddy working with a screen at their job, we order food with a screen, and their homework is done with a screen as well. (“If it doesn’t have a screen you can touch, it is old”, my son once told me.)
When Kids Use Screens, It Prepares Them for Tomorrow
OK, so my kids like to turn their imagination into reality and the tools are there to support that. Why is that important? (Besides the fact it gives me and my wife some quiet time?)
All three experiences involve ‘learning by doing’. The screen isn’t just there to watch in a passive way. The kids actively use the screen to accomplish something. Specifically, in these activities, they’re using it to build something new.
According to some, this is the most effective way to learn. Learning theory as a passive listener will only take you so far. Taking action will get you the real expertise and understanding.
Those kids are today’s students and tomorrow’s employees. They expect that their imagination will materialize onto the screen with video and into reality with VR and AR. We’re training them to like to create things, because when kids use screens, they actually can! This is how they learn today at home and at school. Can you imagine what they’ll create when they’re adults?
As difficult as it may be, we should adjust. We need to give them the tools to succeed. Or at least not get in their way…