Here are a few ideas for parents and children how to use tablet/phone computers as social tools. The below is not an exhaustive list. These suggestions address parents with pre-teen children and parents who worry about screen-time and media ‘effects’. Nevertheless, everyone can adjust these to fit their tastes and family dynamics, to benefit from the opportunities afforded by new media technologies while also take a proactive role in educating children – and oneself – about media.
Find the lyrics of a song you enjoy with your child/ren and read it online. Have your child read it aloud and talk about the themes, the meanings and “what the author tried to say”. Here is one my children and I read recently since we love listening to this song in the car:
Look at your young men fighting
Look at your women crying
Look at your young men dying
The way they’ve always done before
Look at the hate we’re breeding
Look at the fear we’re feeding
Look at the lives we’re leading
The way we’ve always done before
My hands are tied
The billions shift from side to side
And the wars go on with brainwashed pride
For the love of God and our human rights
And all these things are swept aside
By bloody hands time can’t deny
And are washed away by your genocide
And history hides the lies of our civil wars
The question, “mom, what’s ‘genocide’?” can take you to a long discussion about what has and what hasn’t changed in the world and about people. Dress the conversation appropriately depending on your child’s age and how much you believe he or she can take.
Watch a movie in a foreign language, preferably Swedish (e.g.Karlsson på taket,Här Kommer Pippi Långstrump, Emil i Lönneberga) – if you’re not; in Hungarian – if you are. It’s awfully funny especially if you demand that children do the instant translation meanwhile.
On a more serious note, there are amazing films that are not US-made. As Hollywood is dealing with a whole lot of mess right now, while its actors and actresses also juggle between saving polar bears and war children and making movies and headlines and perfumes and cook books, making art for art’s sake is not forsaken in Europe and elsewhere. Here are two really good ones my children and I watched recently:
Dangal – you can have endless conversations with your children after watching the movie. It touches upon themes from sports – the most obvious, to family relationships, gender issues, and cultural differences, to dedication, commitment and love.
El faro de las orcas – a beautiful story based on a real person. It mesmerized a 5-, a 6- and an 8-year-old and two adults!
Read the newspapers together – the printed ones. Use them to talk about what children see – from where articles and pictures are positioned on the sheets to how big and small the titles and the various articles are and why. Use newspapers to talk about old media vs. new media. Henry Jenkins’s slightly dated but still great read for parents is Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. From here, you can also talk about media audiences that is you and your child/ren. Audiences as seen from content consumers to content creators, from passive to active/critical/participatory.
You could also give your child/ren the key to your letter-box to check mail daily. My children love checking the letter-box! They love when they come across a full letter-box. They scavenge through the junk mail – those cheap colourful magazines that are, by the way, really important to bring up in your conversations. Some commercials in these magazines are so unflattering to say the least that children should study them in schools.
Browse and discuss the endless list of apps on the App Store. Explore and comment on them like you’re window-shopping. Point at apps and ask your children what they think they are about. I’m ready to bet that by the time you’ve tried to guess the fifth random app, the children will want to stop and switch to an outdoor play or anything else.
Check out NASA’s apps. Their 3D Spacecraft can ‘land’ on your kitchen counter. The Solar System app is also impressive.
Make 3D objects and print them. Try Foldify for that. Make a puppet show.
Write a script and record reading the script using your phone/tablet camera or voice memo. Read the script in the following voices:
1. football (soccer) commentator
2. foreign accent
3. school principal reprimanding a child
4. Olaf (or any other film character of your or your child’s choice)
5. each other’s voice
You must subscribe for the full fersion of the Calm app but it’s so worth it. The topics change everyday. They last roughly 10 minutes. You and your child/ren can stay still, listen and…meditate. The conversations each Calm topic can spark are invaluable. Thank you, Tamara Levitt. One that my children remember the most is about happiness: ubuntu.
What have you tried that works well to socialize with your children through the use of media tools? Share your favorite activities here.