The title says it all. Kids.
Over the last several months of blogging, I've focused all my writing to be based around technical topics. But today I took a step back, reflected upon my learning process, and more importantly how programming has impacted my life.
Not all, but many programmers work remotely. Initially the thought of working remotely sparks excitement for most: No morning commute, A comfortable and personalized office space, Better lunch breaks depending on who's cooking, and much more... But what happens when the privacy an office would supply, is replaced by a two year old asking to Watch Turbo every time you flip open your laptop?
Now, I'm not saying Turbo isn't a great movie, but snail racing will have to be taken somewhere else.
We currently live in a world where technology rules our lives. I mean... We're programmers! But given how the whole "time" and "innovation" thing works, we didn't have the same devices children have today. It's now common to see children having an Iphone before the age of 10. Or toddlers with tablets at the dinner table. And I'm sure we can all think of an elementary age child who spends 3+ hours a night in front of a gaming system/computer screen. As unfortunate as this all may seem, and as many temper-tantrums/arguments we may face as parents with our children over screen-time, who are they learning from?
Is your head often bent over looking at your phone? Do you lounge around in front of the TV for a few hours a night? Are you hunched over a desk, staring at a computer screen for all day? And, the most important question, is your child watching you do any of these activities?
If the answer is yes, you have you answer to why your 8 year old is asking for a phone. Or, why getting them to turn off Fortnite is practically a battle itself. On the flip side, think about how you would feel if your wifi went down during your sales presentation. They're just imitating us!
At this point you may be saying, "Okay, so basically you're telling me that everything I use, and what our world revolves around, is influencing my child. That's pretty obvious... How am I suppose to just drop everything and live an Amish-lifestyle for the sake of my child?" Well it's simple. You're not. Nothing against the Amish.
Out of all the benefits we may personally have gained from working/learning from home, family time is one to be considered. Prior to 2020, life was fast-paced to say the least. Most households were empty, or left in charge to pets, by around 9-10 am, only to have its tenants trickle in throughout the evening. In all respect to everything that has happened, and the circumstances that brought us all together, a slower-paced life has been a blessing to many. Being able to enjoy breakfast with your kids, or read over a paper of theirs at lunch is truly something to cherish. But what happens when you're in a meeting, or busy crunching a 4 o'clock deadline and they're bored after school? Before you know it, you agreed to two..wait no four... to please just one more game, all for some peace and quiet in the house. It all cycles back into the points made before.
Telling a child to go read a book, draw, or play outside is easy. But we're doing this while staring at a screen ourselves. Unless they see us actively engaging in similar activities, it's pretty hypocritical to give out all these demands. It also makes enforcing the values we want our children to have a lot harder.
Creating set time once a day/week for family time, can make a huge difference in encouraging children to do those same/similar activities on their own. If you would rather have your child play in the backyard, or ride their bike to the park, start doing that with them!
My son is only two, but I make time every week to garden with him. Allowing him to plant seeds, dig dirt, and just have fun with it. After a few gardening sessions together, I transitioned him into his own area in our backyard, where he can essentially play garden. Saying that he loves it is an understatement, and he is learning a valuable skill! Giving him this space, as well as the skills to play in it, has given me more time and less headaches! I am now able to take my computer outside and work peacefully from my backyard, while he plays, discovers, and tires himself out.
The point being, creating spaces for your child to turn to, as an alternative to their devices, avoids those temper-tantrums and arguments all together. For many parents, knowing their children are stimulated in healthy ways, that don't necessarily need to be powered by a plug, is a weight off their shoulders, and can make having a successful work day from home achievable.
I'm not saying you need to teach your kids to garden, however you most certainly can, but try making time to do a fun/interesting activity with your children, and watch them pick it up on their own.
While these may all seem like very obvious things to do, sometimes we need a reminder...
Encourage Reading! Read. Read. Read. I read with my son every night before bed, but do whatever is age appropriate for your children. If you have an elementary age child/early teen, set family reading time, where you can sit outside and read.
Art. The Dollar Store's craft section has surprisingly great painting/craft kits. At the whooping price of a dollar! Doing this with children can be a huge stress reliever for us, and a nice break too. While our little ones benefit by developing their creativity, problem solving, and more.
Hiking/Walking If you live an area that has hiking/walking trails start taking your kids for a daily stroll. Allowing kids to discover new things in nature can lead to an array of new interests. They may find a really cool plant/animal and research the species at home. Or maybe they see a scenic view they'd like to recreate. If that isn't enough, there is evidence that exercise in early childhood is extremely beneficial for brain development and growth.
Cooking/Baking This one has to be modified with age, but incorporating your children into any of your meal prep routines can encourage some awesome behaviors outside the kitchen! Allowing children to be creative in the kitchen, and gives them alternative skills such as math, problem solving, experimenting, etc.
Family Sports/Games Take time to kick around a soccer ball, or play an outdoor game of hide-n-seek. This can even transition inside the home to board games, such as the Game of Life or Monopoly. Playing games with children helps teach them patience, teamwork, and problem-solving.
Music Listen to music, play music, write music, anything with music! The benefits of music are a list by themselves. Taking up an instrument with your child/allowing them to learn one on their own is something to consider.
Learning You may chuckle reading this one. "How do you expect me to get my child to choose learning over pretty much anything else?" Well it's simpler than it seems. Let them choose what they want to learn about. Sometimes finding a topic or new thing for a child to enjoy is a challenge, because there is just so much out there. That's why social media influences children/people so easily, it picks and chooses the pieces of information and displays it on a screen for anyone to scroll and see, it's so easy a baby could do it. Literally! But, if you were to take you child to museums or science centers, information is also laid out in an easy way for them to understand. They no longer feel this uncertainty of where to go for entertainment, which leads them avoiding easy simulation, such as the television .On the contradictory, this is when technology can also become useful. Research on the computer in regards to learning and self improvement should always be encouraged as parents. Just as it should be monitored.
The list goes on, but hopefully you get it! Do the things, you want to see your children do.
Contradicting everything I've said, technology of course, does have its benefits for children.
As I stated in the beginning, we're programmers, and we love what we do! Working from home has allowed our children to have a deeper look into what we actually do for work. If they are genuinely interested in that, we are allowed to share that passion.
A great resource for kids learning how to code is Scratch. Scratch is a programming language and an online community for children to learn coding. It allows people to share interactive stories, games, and animations with others around the globe. Introducing your child to Scratch gives them a fun and easy way to code for themselves, and learn about what you're doing in a safe environment!
Another great resource is Code Academy. Code Academy offers a variety of free courses/lessons/mini projects, as well as inexpensive learning packages on a variety of programming languages. Many of us have heard of it, and may have even tried it in our early days of programming. Why not let your kids try it out? This one is definitely geared towards the 12+ age range, but nonetheless a great head start into the world of programming.
As long as the amount of time doing so is monitored and maintained, children can have a healthy relationship with the computer and learning how to code. Giving you the free time, and piece of mind, to get work done.
As much as I've preached about getting kids away from the screens, and giving them time to, well... be kids. Their online presence is inevitable. If you Google your child's name, depending on their age, you'll get a bunch of different things, and hopefully nothing unexpected. You may see awards from school, stats from extra-circulars, and if they have any social media, that may show up as well. Once this online presence starts, it grows like a weed. We all know, and have heard the phrase, "What goes on the Internet, stays on the Internet." But working in the tech field now, how real has that phrase become?
It is now more important than ever to teach our children to have a safe and professional online presence. Yes, I use the word "professional", so if you're looking at your five year old picking their nose right now, that adjective may sound a bit ridiculous. But, as I stated in the introduction, our life revolves around technology. What your child does now may ultimately impact the programs they have access to later in life, and I'm not talking just about school.
While you may have a teen who complains now about posting restrictions, made by you , they will appreciate it later on when their online presence isn't cluttered with inappropriate photos/content. By enforcing a more professional/kid friendly presence, this also encourages children to post about meaningful topics. Instead of posting meaningless Snapchat stories, encourage your child to start a video/written blog or photo diary. There are also many educational accounts that can be followed on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, and there's no reason to totally cut your child's online presence and contact from friend's. As long as social media is used for a beneficial/educational way, and the time using it is not excessive, there's no shame to it.
How dangerous is the Internet? Well, there's only one way to put it. It's terrifying. We all know that the unspeakable is just clicks away, so what is stopping a child from reaching those sites. And what's stopping malicious people reaching out to a child on sites that are suppose to be safe? Unfortunately, there isn't much. Their biggest guardian is, you. Again, another obvious statement here, but the best thing you can do is monitor your child's online presence. This can cause arguments, in regards to respecting your child privacy, so keep this in mind while doing so. But monitoring the sites they're on, while encouraging them to engage in safer, more secure, educational platforms is the best way to ensure your child has a safer digital experience.
Have the talk. No, I don't mean that talk. I mean that one about everything living on the Internet for basically ever. Yeah, that one. Depending on your child's age, show them examples of what can happen when you post something you regret on the Internet. If you have a younger child, that may mean using an embarrassing photo. Show them an appropriate example, and explain to them that once it's posted, everyone can see it, and once they delete it, it's not actually gone. For older children, get real. Let's face it, there are evil people out there with evil intentions. On the flip side, if your child isn't careful about what they post/do they could end up involved with the law. Although it may be embarrassing or annoying for them talk about, remind them that, even we, as adults, get fooled on the Internet. Shocking, I know.
The moral of the story is, as with everything in life, moderation is key. And in this case, monitoring is key too. While I'm not at all doubting the time you spend with your child, and the way you monitor their technologies already, I encourage you also to take a step back. Reflect. Think about what morals, skills, experiences, you want your child to have, and how you can implement that as a family. Finding a healthy balance in your child's life for technology can be difficult, but nonetheless achievable.