Most children and young people today are passionate and proficient consumers of digital technology. Parents are often concerned that, outside school, their children are spending too much time in front of screens, passively consuming content.
Aside from entertainment, communication and learning activities, the range and depth of today’s user-friendly digital tools can offer so many more opportunities, and with surprising benefits.
An emerging trend is the ‘digital maker’ movement: that is, encouraging kids to move beyond being consumers of technology to being digital creators. At one end, digital making is simply about using technology to further explore your passions and hobbies, opening up richer digital experiences and new avenues for creativity and expression. This might be digital storytelling, or making art, music and video with digital tools.
At a deeper level, digital making involves learning about the underlying technology itself, such as learning how to code to create your own website, app or game, or design and 3D print an object.
With 75 per cent of the fastest-growing occupations set to require science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills1, increasing kids’ digital literacy can help equip them with the skills they will likely need for their future, including computational, systems, problem-solving and design-thinking skills that can also be transferred into other aspects of life.
Parents can help influence informal digital making and learning in the home by encouraging kids to explore their hobbies through technology or explore the technology itself through activities like coding, helping to build competent and confident digital creators.
Top ideas for sparking young digital makers:
1. Coding – Flex your kids’ coding smarts with free visual programming languages Scratch (ages 8+) and ScratchJr (ages 5–7) to create interactive stories, games and animations; or enrol them in a Code Club, a nationwide network of free, volunteer-led, after school coding clubs for 9–11 year-olds.
2. Music-making – Discover the joys of composing with Incredibox, by creating a free musical mix with your very own beatbox crew, then record and share it (age 8+); or by composing with Noteflight, budding musicians can write their own music (teens).
3. Art-making – Unleash your kids’ inner artist with Sketchbook, a free digital drawing app for sketching, designing and more (teens) or try creative tool ArtSet (age 7+), downloadable from the iTunes store.
4. Publishing – Create beautiful stories with WePublish which allows you to write, illustrate, publish and print your own 8-page book (age 5+), or make stunning free visual stories with Storybird (age 6+).
5. Media-making – make radio, podcasts, TV or other digital media with SYN Media’s online resources (ages 12+).
6. Building – Get building with a ‘sandbox’ program like Minecraft. Think digital Lego without tripping on blocks! Players place and break blocks in a 3D environment while “mining” for materials they need for their character to live (age 5+).