What makes a kid a future entrepreneur or tech wizard? Of course that’s an impossible question, with a million answers and no consensus. And I’m not claiming any expertise beyond a lifetime as a tech entrepreneur and concerned parent (father of several successful entrepreneurs and tech wizards).
But I do say that easy access to keyboards, computers and the right kind of video/online/tablet games are steps in the right direction. And good for kids.
Do you have kids in your house? Do you regulate their screen time?
I’d like you to take a second look at kids and computers. Not all screen time is the same thing. And I’m pretty sure the right kind of screen activities can be good for kids. I’m not suggesting that unlimited access to mobile devices, living on the smart phone, is good for anybody. But some kinds of games, and screen time connected to keyboards can be really good.
Not that all parents want their kids to be entrepreneurs or techies — nor should they. But some do, and for any kid in 2015, a comfortable relationship with technology is a good thing. High tech is not going away.
I draw from my experience first:
Aside from my experience, there is research. The American Psychological Association reviewed research on video games for an article in the February 2014 issue of its journal Monitor on Psychology. They found:
Last weekend I watched grandkids aged 7, 8 and 9 spend a couple of hours together, collaboratively, solving puzzles involved in a Lego-based game getting Lego-character super heroes through mazes and over obstacles. It reminded me of the real-time strategy and role-playing games of 20 years ago. It was good for them.
And then there’s Minecraft, in which kids create new worlds of structures and adventures using virtual block landscapes, managing resources and building virtual things. There are lots of other examples of good computer games, including some in which kids program robots, solving puzzles with programming sequence. Or consider Scratch, the programming language MIT developed for kids to play with.
So, yes, I agree with all of you generation X and millennial parents that you need to limit screen time in general, and particularly those mobile devices that end up replacing real life with non-stop txt messages, or endless cartoons and such. But don’t treat all screen time as the same. Differentiate between screen time with keyboards, programming and programming-like games, strategy and adventure games, and other potentially educational computing experiences.
Some “screen time” is good for these kids in my opinion. And whether or not it encourages them to be future entrepreneurs, if it helps them develop the right kind of familiarity with technology, it can’t be that bad.
(Note: this is an only slight modification of my latest column for the Eugene Register Guard, my local newspaper in Eugene, Oregon.)
(Illustration: thanks to Donnie Rae, Flickr, creative commons)