Summertime STEM: Technology and Summertime Limits

As summer vacation is beginning for families throughout our region, it’s a question of balance that comes up between parents everywhere:  How much technology is too much?  And how do we set limits during the unstructured months of summer?  According to the AAP, children today are spending an average of seven hours a day on screen time (this includes TV, computers, phones and other electronic devices.  This is despite the AAP’s recommendation that screen time should be limited to less than two hours a day.

infographic by U.S. Department of Education:  http://www.ed.gov/stem

infographic by U.S. Department of Education:  http://www.ed.gov/stem

While we are supposed to be limiting screen time, job prospects in technology fields continue to rise.

IT jobs will grow 22% through 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A look through the Occupational Outlook Handbook shows that many occupations that are technology-based will be increasing as our children get ready to enter the workforce.

Parents need to ready their children for a technological workplace without letting technology completely take over. It can be quite the challenge for today’s parents!  Here are a few suggestions that inspire children to use technology while at the same time getting them outside and active.  A win-win approach for families this summer vacation!

Geocaching

There are hundreds of geocaches to search for in the Fingerlakes Region!

There are hundreds of geocaches to search for in the Fingerlakes Region!

Geocaching is an activity that is rapidly gaining popularity worldwide.  Outdoor-based, but with a technological twist, it’s a hit with kids and parents alike.  In a nutshell,” Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.” (source:  Geocaching 101)

Biking, Hiking and Walking

Whatever your method of summertime locomotion, there’s an app for that!  Check out Map My Ride (biking), Map My Walk, and Map My Hike to plan your next outdoor adventure.  Kids can use their technology to plan their next route, and these free apps all allow you to document your activity afterward.  You can even share your entries online on social media if you want to keep friends updated on your adventures.

For local fans of Rich & Sue Freeman (Footprint Press, authors of several guide books for our region), did you know you can find many of their trails online?  Check out the links for Take a Hike!  Family Walks in New York’s Finger Lakes Region Guide Book.  Using technology to plan your outdoor adventures can entice kids to go exploring.

Searching for Information

Whether you are planning your next hike or planning a patriotic celebration for July 4th, information abounds online.  Instead of playing games, have your kids explore and research instead.  How many times a day do questions come up?  Questions about nature such as information on the local wildlife, or information on how to fix a flat bike tire or what is the best air pressure to put in your soccer ball for your next game of Word Cup – the stream of questions is limitless.   Let your kids search for answers and fill the rest of the family in on what they have discovered.

Photography 

31 Day Challenge from Raising Playful Tots.com

31 Day Challenge from Raising Playful Tots.com

Taking pictures is a great way to capture memories and document special events.  It’s also a great way to get the kids outdoors in the summertime.  Armed with a digital camera, kids see their environment through a different lens, and often find that they slow down and really take a good look at their surroundings.

There are digital cameras in all price ranges, and chances are you already have one (or more) in your house already that they can practice with.  Giving kids a theme can lend a completely different twist to your regular picture taking!  There are some great ideas online for picture-a-day type challenges.

A couple photo-taking lessons can go a long way in getting archival-quality photos.  Check out these 13 Lessons to Teach Your Child About Digital Photography from the Digital Photography School.  Sharing Your Camera with a Kid also has great suggestions for introducing little ones to the wonder of photography.

Journal Apps, Online Diaraies, and Digital Scrapbooks

If you’re stuck inside on a rainy day, take a look at some of the fantastic new applications available online for documenting the adventures you’ve had this summer.  From Common Sense Media, a leader in providing parents with trustworthy and up-to-date information about online media and digital content, comes a list of 17 apps that are reviewed for you and can be sorted by age, quality, and learning potential.

Safety FirstInternet-Safety-Month

With all of the technology available to our children, information is only a few clicks away.  Unfortunately, danger is just as easy to find online.

June is Internet Safety Month! Take some time to review internet safety with your children this summer, and build lifelong habits regarding safe internet use.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a Netsmartz Workshop that is specifically designed to help parents in this area.  With information for parents, and special sections for teens, tweens and kids, there is a wealth of  information on how to stay safe online.  From blogging and gaming to identify theft and other security issues, they cover a wide range of topics that affect families in the digital age.  There are even videos and presentations that you can download or watch right online.

How is your family embracing technology this summer?  Share your ideas with us!

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