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How to turn your kids’ smartphone time into marketable skills for the future

Building children’s independence and confidence with real-life tech skills
WATCH: They spend hours on their phones but are teens getting real-life tech skills as a result? One human resources professional says no, adding young adults are ill-prepared for the real world. But, as Laurel Gregory reports, she says there is a remedy.

Jack and Alex Heath are seasoned when it comes to tackling domestic duties. Laundry, cooking, dusting, vacuuming, and meal prep are all in a week’s work. The dynamic duo isn’t a housekeeping team; they’re brothers, aged 11 and 14.

“My husband and I are very driven in our careers and we have a very busy lifestyle,” mother Lina Heath explains. “Our kids have grown in an environment where they need to think for themselves and figure out solutions to their everyday lives. For example, if they have laundry to do, then they do it. We’ve taught them how to use the appliances in our home.

“If they’re hungry, we have taught them to prepare healthy meals.”

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That means if dad is out of town for work (a common scenario for the national sales manager) or mom is running late (she’s the president of Eveline Charles) the boys take it upon themselves to get dinner started. It could be as simple as popping pre-made quiche into the oven, but this is just a sample of how the parents are instilling independence in their young boys.

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“I’ve called Uber on multiple occasions,” Jack said. “Pretty recently I had to bring Alex to one of his acting classes. So we Ubered there and I waited and then my mom picked us up to drive back.”

These are the kind of confidence-building tasks that make former human resources director, Melissa Griffin, salivate. The Texan behind HR Mom is encouraging parents to challenge their children to numerous tasks in the name of independence.

WATCH BELOW (Sept. 5, 2017): A Vancouver single father who says he’s trying to raise his children to be responsible and independent says a complaint about his children riding the bus has turned his life upside down. Grace Ke has the story.

Vancouver father says kids can’t ride bus on their own
Vancouver father says kids can’t ride bus on their own

“A lot of parents give their kids devices and they say, ‘I don’t want to shelter them from technology. I want them to have the skills they need,’ and then they don’t know how to teach them those skills,” Griffin said.

“I’m getting people into the workforce that do not have basic technical skills but they’ve had phones since the 6th grade. I wanted to bridge that gap for parents.

“How do we use this technology in a positive way? For actual life skills, so that when we launch them they know how to operate in the real world?”

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READ MORE: Parents are using tech to ‘track’ their kid’s location. Does it cross the line?

Griffin is encouraging parents to challenge their children to use their smartphones to create and contribute, rather than for simply texting or using social media.

Her challenges include: calling to book a haircut or a dentist appointment, researching a recipe, ordering groceries online, creating a vacation packing list in a spreadsheet or making a PowerPoint presentation for a family member’s birthday.

She says these kinds of tasks not only give children marketable skills; they allow them to contribute to the household in a meaningful way.

WATCH BELOW (Sept. 11, 2017): Christine Pilkington from VancouverMom.ca has advice on how to teach your children to be more independent.

Teaching kids independence
Teaching kids independence

“What I try to do is introduce parents to all sorts of scenarios that put your child in an uncomfortable situation. So these technology challenges and these independence challenges, as I call them, are to put kids in a grey area where they have to make a decision,” Griffin said.

Griffin adds when children or teens text, they have time to think about their response. Picking up the phone and booking an appointment forces them to make decisions on the spot.

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“You have to go with it on the spot and that’s causing major anxiety with this generation.”

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READ MORE: Could you give up your smartphone for a week?

Lina Heath doesn’t expect any decision to paralyze her own children. She’s been training them to think and act independently for years.

“Both my husband and I are in management positions and we are often faced with employees that are just starting their careers and they are insecure or uncertain about everyday small decisions on how to manage their day.

“When we get home, we share some of these stories with our children with hopes that we can educate them on how they can learn these small life skills that will have a large impact on their lives as they become mature, responsible adults.”

For more independence and tech challenges from Melissa Griffin’s viral post, visit her HR Mom Facebook page.