How to Teach Children to use Technology in Environmentally Friendly Ways

Did you realize that technology can help us live more sustainably and save the environment? Thanks to advances we’ve made in the past decade alone there are tools you can use to help protect the planet and our future.

Technology allows us to reduce our energy consumption and we have apps that allow us keep track of our carbon footprint and be more conscientious when making decisions. Both of which benefit the environment.

Did you realize that technology can help us live more sustainably and save the environment? Thanks to advances we’ve made in the past decade alone there are tools you can use to help protect the planet and our future.

Technology allows us to reduce our energy consumption and we have apps that allow us keep track of our carbon footprint and be more conscientious when making decisions. Both of which benefit the environment.

When it comes to the issue of technology and the environment, one aspect that tends not to be discussed is whether there is a way to help kids learn to use technology in environmentally friendly ways? 

While sustainable classrooms have been a hot topic among educators for some time now, the general public seems less focused on the question than you might think.

Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to help.

Why is it Important to Teach Your Kids About Environmentally Friendly Use of Technology?

Child and Environment and Technology

The simplest answer is it’ll benefit them in the future. It is for the generations to come that we must strive to create a better world. There isn’t a better way to invest in a bright, clean, and sustainable future than to teach our children how they can enjoy all the benefits technology brings without harming Mother Earth. Remember that by giving our children the vital lessons of responsible use of technology we’re teaching them to:

There is one hidden benefit of teaching your children about environmentally friendly technology. You’ll hone your habits as well. After all, the best way to show your kids the most efficient and eco-friendly way to use their smartphones, computers, and other digital equipment is to lead by example.

What is Eco-Friendly Technology

For a piece of technology to be sustainable and good for the planet in the long run, it needs to have certain qualities. The best-case scenario is when a gadget ticks all boxes, but even if it only meets a few of the following criteria it can still be good for the environment:

  1. It’s made solely or chiefly from recycled and/or reused materials
  2. Greenhouse gas emissions are low
  3. Uses little to no natural resources
  4. Draws energy from renewable resources like sunlight or wind
  5. Consumes less energy than conventional counterparts
  6. Has low impact on the environment

The good news? In 2021 many everyday items share most of these qualities. Even the cheapest, mass-produced pieces of technology are infinitely better for the environment than they used to be twenty years ago.

How does this affect teaching your kids about sustainable technology? They probably already know more about it than you think. Children today grow up in a culture that is more conscious about the environment than ever before. That attitude is reflected in the technology that surrounds them every day.

Teaching Kids About Eco-Friendly Use of Technology Today is Easier Than Ever

Start by explaining that the role young people play in protecting the environment is greater than it used to be. The way you go about it depends on the age of your little ones and what exposure they have had to the issue up to now. Environmentally friendly use of technology is a complex issue, so here are some tips:

Get Them Hooked on The Topic

Don’t sit your little ones down with a grim face. The more excited you get them about the topic before you start, the better. Try asking them if they want to learn about a rather fascinating topic.

Storytelling is a crucial tool when it comes to teaching kids about anything, but especially tech and the environment. Be ready to crack open some books and learn from the masters how to grab the reader’s or in this case, the listener’s attention.

Make it Personal

Talking about saving the planet from the get-go would be a mistake. Tell your kids that what you are teaching them will impact their lives. Little kids, however, rarely grasp such concepts. It is much better to point out how they would enjoy their gadgets longer and better if they learn to use them sustainably.

Don’t Be Too Technical

The rule of thumb for explaining complex ideas is to leave out as many of the details as possible. However, that doesn’t mean dumbing things down. Explaining how greenhouse gases harm the atmosphere of the planet or involving physics and chemistry in the discussion isn’t really necessary.

Explain that unreasonable use of technology contributes to global warming. Then tell them in a couple of sentences why global warming is bad.

Tell Them They Can Help

Little kids generally want to help society and the world. That is why many children dream of becoming doctors, scientists, firefighters, and astronauts.

You’ll certainly grab their attention if you explain that they can help prevent the terrible things that are happening to the planet. Once you do that, the easy part is over. The hard part is building the habits that’ll help them use technology in the most sustainable way possible.

What You Do Every Day Matters

Nowadays, eco-friendly technology at home goes way beyond energy-efficient light bulbs. Make sure you teach your kids some basic environmentally friendly routines, but focus on technology.

Between school and entertainment, children today spend more hours in front of computer screens, tablets, and smartphones than ever before. That has become even more relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic when e-learning became the norm. Do what is necessary to teach your kids to limit their screen-time however they can.

“Reduce” is one of the four Rs of environment-friendly life. The other three are Reuse, Recycle, and Rebuy of course.

Spending time off-line is also good for the environment. It will benefit their health as well. Not to mention that if you engage in family activities, like playing board games or going out for a walk, it’ll be an invaluable bonding experience as well. In a way, environmentally friendly use of technology will benefit your family life in ways you hadn’t considered before.

Provide the Means

Studies show a lack of resources and support prevents people from pursuing more sustainable ways of living. If you want your kids to care about the planet (and you should), make sure you give them what they need.

You’re the person who’ll buy the pieces of technology they have to learn to use responsibly. That is why to a large extent, it falls on your shoulders to mold your consumer habits in an environmentally responsible manner. That doesn’t mean you should go and buy all the new fancy smartphones Apple advertises as eco-friendly. Quite the contrary. In most cases, thinking twice before buying a new phone, TV or tablet is the more conscious decision.

You need to teach your kids that having the latest fashionable gadget isn’t always necessary. The impact of extreme consumerism on the environment ranks high on the list of problems. It’s important for your kids to use technology in an environmentally friendly way, which means you should teach them to only have those pieces of technology that they need.

The Value of Recycling

Tech breaks down no matter how well you take care of it. Therefore, teaching your kids why it’s important to recycle technology rather than throwing it away is crucial. If you want to raise children who use technology responsibly, let them see you treat your old, discarded electronics the eco-friendly way.

Once you’ve shown them how best to get rid of old technology, it’s time for the next step – teaching them how and what to buy. From an environmental standpoint, it’s best to reuse. If you can find a good secondhand phone that’ll do the same job as the one from the store – buy it. Good, reliable, used electronics should be play a part in your household.

It’s All About the Apps

Do you want to get your kids excited about using tech to help the environment? There’s no better way to achieve that than hooking them up with the right applications. Depending on their age and level, you can employ different approaches:

  • Finding some educational games about the environment. If you play them together, you’ll not only bond but help them learn even faster
  • Get them an app that helps track their carbon footprint and other metrics relating to their environmental impact. Again, get the whole family involved for optimal results.

Last but not least, teach them about eco-friendly modes. All phones, appliances, TVs, and even cars today have them. Show your kids how to turn them on and off. Explain to the little ones how these modes help the planet. Of course, don’t forget to show them how to switch on the eco-friendly mode on their smartphones and tablets. And let’s not forget, unplugging all devices when not in use is fundamental.

Education Outside of Home

More and more schools today include sustainable use of technology in their programs. Part of being an active parent is caring about what your children are learning at school. It won’t hurt if you ask teachers whether they teach the kids about the eco-friendly use of technology. If the program doesn’t cover such topics, you can suggest to the board it’s included. Get more parents actively involved for optimal results.

Remember – It’s a Long Journey

Building healthy habits and teaching your children to use technology in an eco-friendly way doesn’t happen in a day. Be prepared for a long, sometimes tedious journey. You don't have to lose hope, though. It’s a worthy cause for everyone including the planet, society, yourself, and most importantly, your kids. 

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Article by
Stephen Mash

Stephen is a UK-based freelance technology writer with a background in cybersecurity and risk management.

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