The term “robots” often makes adults envision the lifelike machines from sci-fi movies or automated machines in large-scale warehouses. However, robots are becoming more and more common in our everyday lives, especially in the lives of our children. Rather than being grand inventions far removed from our reality, robots are becoming a core part of school and play. Many children of the 21st century are even growing up with robotic technology in the home, such as robot vacuums and self-cleaning litter boxes.
While most adults didn't grow up in the same high-tech world, it's the responsibility of parents to get involved in their kids' lives and protect them from the potential dangers within it. This article will explore how adults can educate themselves about robots, especially the ones playing a direct role in their children's lives.
One thing adults need to understand is that robots aren’t just a part of our kids’ lives; they’re part of adults’ lives, too. Robotics encompasses a wide range of technologies, and we’re increasingly seeing robots clean up spills at big box stores or deliver food on business or college campuses. When you understand how robots impact your life, you can talk to your kid about how you use robots ethically and safely, so you can set a good example for your child.
For example, you may recognize automation features within your vehicle, such as pedestrian and animal detection or adaptive cruise control. When you use these features, you can explain to your child what safety precautions you’re taking. For instance, while you may let your car run on auto-pilot on a straight highway with consistent speed limits, but not a busy city street. This way, as robotic technology develops — perhaps allowing for in-car streaming and gaming on top of automations — your child can make safer decisions about their digital activity.
A highly effective way to learn about robots is by getting hands-on with new robotic technology — not just the tech you’re familiar with. Consider what robots can actually make a difference in your home life and consider investing in one or two options. From technology that automates vacuuming and pool cleaning to mowing and grilling, there are plenty of robots to choose from.
As you implement your new robot into your day-to-day, closely observe how it impacts your life. You can ask yourself questions like:
Does this robot save me time or money? How so?
How does this robot work?
Can this robot benefit my child now or in the future?
The more you adopt robotic technology, the more you can see from the perspective of your child, who has grown up in the midst of these inventions. You can understand why they might prefer robots over manual work, while identifying where teaching technical skills are still a necessity, so they’re well-prepared for the future.
While free play is always important during childhood development, introducing your child to STEM toys is a great way to get both of you involved in robotics education at the same time. In addition to learning about the benefits of robots for consumers, you can learn about the programming side of robotics through board games like Robot Turtles and digital apps like Lego Boost.
When you guide your child through these fun activities, you can familiarize yourself with robotic technology right alongside them, starting with basic concepts that even young children can understand. It turns your robotics education into a meaningful bonding activity.
Many adults worry about the cybersecurity risks of robots, especially if those robots can connect to the internet. This isn’t a baseless concern. As tech gets smarter, so do criminals on the web. There’s potential for autonomous machines like robots to get hacked at any time. For example, hackers can intercept video feeds from drones or take over self-driving cars until a ransom is paid.
While companies are always developing new security features, parents must do their part in protecting their children by assessing the risks of robots that their kids interact with. For example, before you invest in robotic technology for your home, you can consider whether or not your data is encrypted. This can prevent criminals from easily figuring out where you live or what your child’s name is.
Your child won’t always be around you when they’re using robotic technology. Robots are part of many school curriculums, and many children interact with robots in their friends’ homes. Starting an open discussion about the robots your child sees and uses gives you the chance to learn about the modern robotics landscape, while also identifying specific technologies you should research. The best part is, your child will likely be happy to share about the technology that excites them, too.
While children may instantly gravitate toward robots, adults can balance their affinity for this technology by offering a more complex perspective about when robots should actually be used. For example, while companion robots — including humanoid robots and lifelike animals — can be enticing for kids, you can explore the impact of this technology on socialization.
Much like a parent might research the how appropriate a video game is before allowing their child to purchase one, your proactive research can be key to helping your child balance their technology usage and develop necessary life skills.
Today’s parents didn’t grow up in a high-tech landscape quite like their children. While kids may see robotic technology as a norm, parents may be warier of new developments. By educating yourself about the pros and cons of robots, you can offer a logical perspective on this technology and safely guide your child in their exploration. Consider getting hands-on experience with robots in your home and introducing robots to your child’s playtime to learn alongside your kid as they grow, too.