The Internet of Things (IoT) & Why We Should Encourage Our Kids to Be Part of it
Girls Into Coding is all about taking the enthusiastic girls in tech and girls in STEM of today and helping them become the top women in tech of tomorrow. One aspect of that is looking beyond STEM education and into the activities kids do every day, especially the devices they interact with.
That’s where a good understanding of IoT comes in. We can help our kids by understanding what it is, why it’s important, and how your kids are already interacting with it in their daily lives.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
The quirkily named Internet of Things, or IoT for short, refers to all those devices that connect to the internet for their functionality without the obvious connection point of a browser window or similar. It’s a network of devices that connect and share data for a range of purposes. Examples you might have in your home include:
· Digital personal assistants
· Smart light bulbs or switches
· Remote-controlled thermostats
· Doorbells with cameras or microphones/speakers that link to your phone
According to Statista, there are currently more than four times as many IoT devices as human beings on the planet. 35 billion devices are in action right now. That figure could rise to 75 billion by 2025. Just one reason why it makes sense to introduce children to the concept of IoT early.
The demand for IoT devices goes up as we increase our demand for automation. Basically, we want things that just work with minimal input from the user. An advanced example of this is the many sensors and monitors within driverless cars.
Kids and IoT
Kids are already actively engaging with IoT devices on a regular basis. That’s good, and it’s crucial that they do so. They need to be engaged with the transformations in technology so that they can be first in line to manipulate it to their own needs and the needs of their communities when the opportunity arises.
But beyond the social ramifications, getting kids involved with IoT devices can be loads of fun for them! Getting to grips with the basics and beyond of robotics, including sensors and connecting them to other devices, is an engaging way to introduce kids to IoT. Using tools like the micro:bit or Raspberry Pi helps them tie together the concepts of coding and connectivity whilst impressing themselves and their friends.
Taking Control of IoT Devices
As we move into an ever more digital world, kids deal with technology as easily as opening doors or turning on a tap. As passive users, they are probably the most talented generation at picking up a piece of technology and using it as it was designed to be used. But to really get ahead in a technological future, wouldn’t it be great to take our children beyond this?
Tech education around IoT is thin on the ground. This makes peer-to-peer learning groups essential until school-based education catches up with reality: that children need a good understanding of how our most common pieces of technology work. Tech companies can help by providing secure ways to manipulate and change existing technologies. An existing example of this is Smartwatch manufacturers that allow users to code and upload watch faces with unique designs and applications that can then be downloaded by other users.
One of the concerns of IoT is still around security. Because kids are exposed to technology and the internet so frequently, they can forget that they still need to maintain security and privacy. Parents and carers can help here, by reminding kids of a few basic steps like:
· Where there are accounts linked to IoT devices, always use different, secure passwords for each account. Examples of accounts can include the logon for a Smartwatch app, a controller for wireless lights in the home, or a home assistant.
· Remind them never to give out personal information online.
· Report anything that makes them uncomfortable when dealing with others online. When collaborating with others, let them know they can always talk to you if anything doesn’t seem right or if outright bullying or abuse occurs
In 2019, Lancaster University proposed a methodology that could help kids stay safe when working with programmable IoT devices. As we move into an even more digital world, it would be great to see tech companies and educational settings putting processes into places that consider ethics, security, and privacy for our kids. This allows them to be as inventive as they like in a safe space online.
The benefits of getting to grips with IoT stretch beyond technology. Children that understand how to interact with and manipulate these types of devices are more likely to engage effectively with the world at large. This leads to more curious, inventive young adults — no matter what field they eventually choose to go into.
Also, IoT is only going to keep expanding. If your kids understand it now, they can eventually use it effectively to make positive changes in the world. Let’s empower them to create the IoT devices that deal with the challenges of tomorrow.