A couple weeks ago, I checked in on my oldest child as they wrapped up a remote class when they showed me their Google Chrome tabs. The tabs were organized by category, with two to three tabs occupying each topic.
I was shocked. Having used Chrome for years now, I somehow never knew about this, content leaving my browser open with hundreds of tabs like papers strewn across a desk.
So, this week, I started organizing them: a set of tabs for work, personal stuff, and topics to consider for future stories.
It has been a total gamechanger. I’m less distracted, and way more organized. All thanks to my kids and the leaps and bounds they’ve made mastering technology.
Households across America have spent a full year largely stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s forced parents and kids to socialize, work and go to school remotely, navigating Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and any other software within reach.
Physically being in school with friends and teachers is best, but it seems kids have made big gains in becoming tech savvy.
Kate Shepherd, who runs her own public relations firm from Indianapolis, has a son immersed in remote learning. She says he’s become more computer savvy as a result.
“He’s learned how to find information he needs online, a key skill that will help him in the future,” Shepherd said. “He knows how to use Google Docs, how to edit and submit assignments and how to create entire presentations with videos and pictures now. Some adults can’t do a lot of what he does.”
Gian Deguzman of Virginia said he was stricter with his son’s screen time prior to the pandemic, but his views on technology have completely changed after seeing how tech has enabled him to keep in touch with friends playing games like “Fortnite.”
“Obviously we hear these things about depression, mental illness and isolation amongst kids,” he said. “I think that would’ve happened to our child if he didn’t have that medium, that ability to play games and connect with other kids.”
Now, I don’t want to describe all our kids’ experiences with tech as sunshine and rainbows. The struggle to get your child to put down the tablet or video game controller is real.
Angela Branch, a mother of a 16- and 17-year-old in Tusla, Okla., said while she welcomes her kids’ ability to connect with friends, all that screen time can feel like too much.
“To me it’s annoying because I’m always having to take them away,” said Branch.
Shepherd has similar concerns about the bump in her son’s tech time. “As soon as he wakes up, he grabs his Kindle to play video games while also watching gaming influencers on YouTube on his laptop,” she said. “It’s like pulling teeth to get him to do anything else.”
But maybe, like many adults, kids are going to look forward to dropping the tech and seeing their friends again. Yalda T. Uhls, founding director for the Center for Scholars & Storytellers at UCLA and author of “Media Moms & Digital Dads: A Fact not Fear Approach to Parenting in the Digital Age,” hopes that happens.
“Some kids will have issues and troubles getting off the tech, but most of them I think will be so happy to be with their friends again that parents will see that’s what really driving why they use these things at the teen and tween stages,” she said.
What else happened in tech
• Congress is back to grilling Big Tech, and threatening more regulation.
• Get ready to shell out more for streaming services: Disney+ raised their price.
• Would you pay $500,000 for a virtual home?
This week on Talking Tech
If you’ve seen a lot of news about NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and have no clue what they are, we’re here to help on the Talking Tech podcast. Plus, co-host Mike Snider and I talk about how workdays are getting longer and how to get the most out of Alexa.
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.