Smart Kids & Smart Phones

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My children were probably the last generation to be raised without cellphones, so I must admit, I had absolutely no experience with them as a parent. In fact, I actually held off buying one for myself for a long time.

By nature, I tend to resist change, especially technological change that always seems so daunting, but eventually, I did purchase a cellphone when my first grandchild was born. With his birth, I felt it was more important than ever to be able to keep in close touch with my son and daughter-in-law. Now I can’t imagine my life without one.

I still have reservations about cellphones, especially when it comes to teenagers. As a former teacher, I can only imagine the issues that arise in the schools and classrooms with respect to cellphone usage. When it comes to my 7-year-old grandson, however, I have come to realize (albeit grudgingly) how valuable cellphones can actually be in terms of providing quality learning experiences—supervised, of course.

Years ago, I made the decision to cancel my landline, so my cellphone is my only method of contacting someone. Out of necessity, therefore, I have had to teach my grandson how to access the cellphone keypad in the event of an emergency in which he would have to call 911. We routinely practice all the steps involved in calling for help and I always keep my cellphone in the same location in my home so he knows exactly where to find it. This experience has given him a sense of pride that he is entrusted with such an important job and it has led to interesting discussions between us about the different emergency services in our community.

My grandson also knows how to access the text function on my phone in case he wants to send his father or mother a message while he is away from them. We have had great fun inserting emojis and gifs into creative messages that convey his own unique personality so my son and daughter-in-law know my grandson is the sender. If they receive a text that has oodles of cars and truck emojis tacked on the end, they can be certain it’s from him!

One of my grandson’s favourite games is “Ask the phone a question.” Using the microphone, he will pose a question and then we will research the suggested results. Where is the largest volcano?  Who built the pyramids? What is a fire break? This not only broadens his knowledge base but also teaches him to think critically because I often point out the validity of a source as we look through it.

Amazingly, the camera function on a smartphone these days is capable of producing good quality photos and videos. Like most children, my young grandson loves to be videotaped—he pretends to be a weatherman, a firefighter, an explorer etc. And then, of course, he enjoys watching the videos we’ve created together. We have also experimented with the slow-motion video function to produce some hilarious results.  Or we will film his hot wheel car jump in slow motion, leading to modifications of the set up in order to achieve desired results.

He often asks for my phone to take his own photos and videos. He might set up a detailed Lego scene for instance which he will then videotape and narrate a tour through. Admittedly, his first few attempts shot more footage of the wall or the floor, but he has gradually gotten the hang of it, understanding how to hold the phone to get the best results, even zooming in on details of his subject. I have also shown him the editing functions for photos, so we have played with things like brightness, tint, shadow effects, etc. We often discuss which effect we like best and how these effects change the mood or message of the photo.

So although I still have reservations about children and cellphones in general, I have come to recognize their value when their use is controlled and supervised. They have taught me to embrace new technologies rather than fear them—yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks!—and to look for positive ways to share that technology with the next generation in order to stay connected.

Susan Gnucci
Susan Gnucci
Susan Gnucci is a local author and a proud “nonna” to an adorable four-year-old grand-son. She enjoys sharing her experiences as a first-time grandparent.

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