By Jonathan Lopera
As a father of two, I have constant thoughts when my kids aren’t around “Are they ok?” “I wonder what they’re up to”. “I miss them”. I recall a hot summer’s day in London as a young teenage boy. I offered to watch a friend’s toddler for 5 minutes at a busy outdoor food market and in a split second I lost sight of the little man as he vanished into a crowd of people. My heart sank in disbelief. As I looked everywhere I’ll never forget his father’s words to me before he broke down in tears; “What have you DONE?? I’ll NEVER forgive you!” he yelled.
Today I empathise fully with that father, who was understandably acting out of nothing other than paternal instinct. To my relief, the boy was eventually found safe and well, but it’s an ordeal I wouldn’t wish on any parent.
Nowadays we have access to a number of advanced GPS solutions that can help track the whereabouts of our keys, pets or a lost child in a crowded area to the nearest square foot. So when you combine the clever use of smartphone technology with innovative apps and products, you can begin to appreciate how companies like Tile, Trax Play and hereO2 have all helped to pave the way for a more reassuring world for us parents.
I embrace technology all day long. Not just because I’ve built a career around it but because it’s part of an evolving world that supports our, and our children’s, everyday lives. There will be plenty of people who voice their opinion on the destruction that technology brings to our world and how there were much “simpler times”. I prefer to focus on the good that it can provide for up and coming generations looking to build a better future.
Take the Duolingo app for instance. It’s renowned for incorporating gamification with learning languages that include Spanish, French, Russian and Vietnamese among others. Earning points for correct answers and racing against a clock might not be a kid’s idea of gripping entertainment, but it certainly puts the fun back into learning and, more to the point, is reflective of the world they live in. So why shouldn’t I want to be a part of that as a father? And don’t we want language skills to play a vital role in our ever more globalised society?
My parents paid for Spanish tuition when I was a boy. I reap the rewards today but GOD was it boring at the time! Nowadays we have an array of fun ways to learn languages alongside younger generations who are willing and able to understand technology that can help them excel further and quicker. For what? 99p on the app store + in app purchases? Take my money.
Hands up any 80s babies who at one time or another heard the phrase “you won’t have a calculator everywhere you go” at school?
Sorry Mr. Shields, things change.
That’s not to say that mental arithmetic isn’t an asset anymore, but there’s no harm in exploring new methods of learning through the clever use of technology.
If a scheduling app like iHomework for iOS helps my son to organise himself better at school, then I’ll encourage him to download it. If PhotoMath for Google and iOS teaches him how to formulate an equation so he can do it better next time, then get Mr. Shields on the phone and assure him that things will be just fine in years to come.
Apps and technology that support children with disabilities and/or learning difficulties are similarly cutting edge and worthwhile. Special Effect, the gamers’ charity that helps people with disabilities to play videogames, does a wonderful job of putting the fun and inclusion back into the lives of people who experience barriers elsewhere. They’ve helped countless people to maximise their abilities; yes to play videogames, but also by levelling the playing field to bring families and friends together, which has a profoundly positive impact on social skills, confidence and rehabilitation.
To me my kids are everything, and if their safety, education and wellbeing is guaranteed for the price of an app, IAP or smart-tech product, then it’s money well spent in my opinion. Tell Mr. Shields I’ll take my chances.