No matter your approach to homeschool, there is a need for technology education in the topics you teach. Sometimes it seems there are two camps for home education- one where no technology is allowed in the education and one where technology is the only educator. Both extremes are detrimental to a child’s education. While whether or not technology should facilitate learning is an individual family decision, at some point your child will be exposed to technology. Because of that, it’s important that they know some things about it. This is just like learning about math or language arts because at some point, your student will need to apply the concepts they learn in the real world (like by counting change or reading a menu.)
This post gives simple and specific homeschool technology topics you need to teach today. It’s easily customizable to age and understanding. These topics are internet safety, technology etiquette uses of computers and coding, and the power of technology to do good.
First and foremost in technology education, children need to know how to safely use it. You wouldn’t hand your child a hot waffle iron and tell them to just cook some waffles. They need to be told that it’s hot, they will get burned if they touch it, and you spray it with oil so the waffle will stick. They need to see you use it properly and that the end result can be something delicious. In the same way, kids need to learn how to be safe with technology and on the internet. Giving them knowledge of the dangers of the internet and how to avoid them is like giving them an oven mitt to use with a waffle iron.
Protect Private Information
One of the biggest dangers of the internet is the sharing of private information. Once shared, this information is out there forever and can potentially put your child’s safety in jeopardy. For a lot of kids, it’s helpful to have a list of things you don’t ever share online like their address, phone number, name, or birthdate. For young children, it may be good to only allow monitored access to places like YouTube where they could post comments. When you feel your child can have a social media account, more specific rules should be put in place there. For example, not messaging or friending strangers, having accounts set to private, and not tagging location in posts. You know your child best but kids thrive under guidelines and it is your job to communicate them to keep them safe.
Be Kind Online
Bullying, harassment, and generally unkind comments are much more prevalent online than in-person. There is something about the seeming anonymity online that can make it seem okay to post hurtful things. The reality is that being unkind isn’t okay. The internet doesn’t forget and many employers look at social media accounts before hiring. A great acronym to teach is to THINK before you post. More information is located at https://technologypursuit.edublogs.org/2015/10/18/t-h-i-n-k-before-you-post/.
One helpful exercise may be to go through your child’s feed and talk about what you see. If you see an unkind comment talk about what the child thinks. How would it make them feel if they received that as a comment or message? How can they be a positive influence on social media?
If you see something, say something
What happens when your child ends up on a website they are not allowed on and sees inappropriate images? If they get an email from a stranger? What happens if someone asks them to meet up in real life? Undoubtedly, every kid will find themselves in one of those situations. The best thing to do is to talk about them without making them feel ashamed. Curiosity is natural and there are forces out there that make running into icky situations very common. Your child needs to know that if they see something that gives them a bad feeling, they need to come to you and that you can help them understand it and help get rid of the bad feeling.
Be aware of scams and ads
Among the bad and scary things of the internet are scams. This is a good resource for understanding those https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-spot-avoid-and-report-tech-support-scams. Also, while ads are a great way that websites make money, some ads can show inappropriate images or lead to viruses if clicked on. It’s important to talk about scams and ads with your child so they can be aware.
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Every family has different rules and expectations when it comes to technology. Should devices be allowed in bedrooms? Should there only be one room in the entire house where tech is allowed? What are TV time and limits? This section is not meant to be a discussion of rules, rather, general guidelines that will help anyone who uses them be polite when using technology. (And believe me, I am still working on some of these.)
Place people over technology
This piece of technology etiquette is number one. This is the answer whenever there is a question of whether or not I should be on my phone. If I’m with another person doing something or they should have my attention, I am not on my phone. This extends to television, including those annoying ones that are on in some restaurants. If I’m watching a YouTube video and my husband comes in the room to ask me a question, that video gets paused immediately.
Putting people over technology is hard, especially for little people! Media is designed to be addicting and demand attention. (That is a whole different can of worms.) Children need to know that when someone is talking with them or wants to play, devices should be off. This is where it may be helpful to limit screen time, but what happens when they’re old enough to have their own device and you can’t monitor consumption?
My suggestion for teaching technology etiquette is to act out situations your child may find themselves in. Say they’re on the bus going to a sports game and they get a call from a friend. What happens if a girl they like wants to text them 24/7 and gets upset when they don’t respond right away, even when it’s dinner time? These situations should be age-appropriate and interactive.
Rule technology, don’t let it rule you
If you get a call during dinner, should you answer it? No, with extremely rare exceptions. My mom always said, “If it’s really important they’ll leave a message or call back.” Unless you’re waiting for news from a doctor or expecting an important call, let it go to voicemail. Imagine the days where letters took days to arrive and telegrams took hours to be delivered. Technology is a blessing, but if we let it rule us, it can become a curse.
The single most powerful thing you can do is set an example. The second is to teach them to be in-tune with their actual emotions surrounding technology. If they spend an hour playing a video game ask, “How do you feel? Is there something you like doing that leaves you feeling better than playing that game?” They may prefer soccer, piano, art, cooking, or journaling. I think we as adults could benefit from this reflection as well.
Hopefully, these homeschool technology topics, centered on soft skills, give the tools you need to teach your child today. This could take 5 minutes or 15, but whatever time you invest in this will be a great blessing to your son or daughter. Coming next in the homeschool technologic topics series are current computer examples in the real world. Subscribe to the homeschoolcode.com newsletter below to get exclusive tips and never miss a blog post or video.