In 2011, what exactly does it mean to be tech savvy? Over at USA Today, the front page boasts an info-graphic of a recent survey conducted by Research Now for AVG. They surveyed 2,200 mothers in 10 nations, asking about the tech skills of children ages 2-5.
The data came back on five categories: 1) operate a computer mouse; 2) turn a computer on/off; 3) play a basic computer game; 4) make a mobile phone call; and 5) open a Web browser. Research Now found that 69 percent of kids ages 2-5 are reported as being able to operate a computer mouse. Fifty eight percent are playing a basic computer game, while just 25 percent can open a web browser.
All lovely cocktail party statistics (as if parents of kids in that age bracket have time to go to cocktail parties), but it begs an important question. Are those the right measures for being a U.S.-based, tech-savvy kid in 2011?
While I am not a mother, I am the parent of two kids that fit that age bracket. The edu-son will be five this April. The edu-daughter is almost three and a half years old. Both are fairly tech savvy. So how do they stack up?
They are both pros at playing computer games, and both can make a mobile phone call (the edu-daughter has also made an emergency call in French, for what it is worth). Neither has opened a Web browser because there has never been a need, but I’m guessing they could if it meant accessing the game or song they wanted. Neither has turned a computer on and off because we only use laptops in our house, so they know how to wake them up. And neither operates a mouse … again because we are using laptops with touch pads.
The issue of using a computer mouse seems so 1998. My edu-kids are quite adept at using both the iPhone and the iPad. They know how to flip between apps. They know how to adjust the volume on whatever technology they are using. They know how to scroll the screen. And our edu-son even knows how to download his own apps (assuming we can’t stop him in time). They’ve mastered the tablet and the touch screen. They know how to flip through an electronic photo album, believing that is that is the only way to look at pictures. They know how to use technology circa 2011. So where is the credit in that?
Believe it or not, the edu-wife and I have had conversations about this very issue, following a discussion on age-appropriate ed technology she was having that day (yes, you can imagine how exciting it is in Eduflack’s house). The issue of the computer mouse was issue 1. Are we equipping our kids with age-appropriate technology when they don’t know how to use a mouse? Should we set up a desktop computer so they know a mouse and a full-size keyboard and one of those CD-ROM drives that can double as a drink coaster? Are we missing the mark in preparing them for the tech they’ll need when they enter school?
I’m willing to be proven wrong, but I answered a resounding NO. We are using age-appropriate technology, based on the games and apps we let our kids have access to. We are helping them by providing access to the latest technologies, instead of teaching them on the machines I first learned on. We are using tech as it will be used, not as it has been used. And yes, we are using technology to supplement what they are learning in preschool and at home, not supplant it.
So I want to see the tech-savvy kids survey that looks at the wee one’s ability to use a touch screen. Or to toggle between apps. Or to enter a password to get past the welcome screen. Flipping a computer on is so War Games.
And for those of you worrying my kids are simply glued to the glow of a microchip powered screen, don’t. Our trampoline still gets more use than the iPad, and next month I start my great “teaching” adventure as coach of my son’s T-ball team. But know I’ll be tracking stats on my iPad …