The HR director and mom of two boys argues that if kids have time to use their devices for social media, they have time to learn essential life skills.

By Maressa Brown
January 22, 2020
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Feeling frustrated that your kids are spending too much time on screens is just a part of 21st-century parenting. But Melissa Griffin, a Texas-based mom of 15- and 11-year-old boys and a 6-year-old daughter, is an HR director who's encouraging parents to reframe this common conundrum by being intentional about how kids are using technology. In a new post on Love What Matters, Griffin shares how device use can actually lead to children acquiring marketable skills.

In the piece, Griffin shared that her team hires entry-level employees on a daily basis. "We hire so many young 20s who are downright addicted to their phones, yet don’t know the absolute basics of using technology and struggle with making and receiving phone calls," she wrote. "The anxiety levels these new hires' faces when they encounter even small amounts of conflict or gray areas on a customer call can be debilitating for so many of them."

Illustration by Parents Staff; Getty Images (1)

Thankfully, Griffin noted that there are practical ways for kids to get more tech-savvy and confident before entering the workforce as adults:

1. Conduct basic internet research.

"Have them research the best way to kill weeds or find the cheapest price for fence replacement, etc.," suggested Griffin. "Have them find the cheapest rental car and hotel for your vacation. Talk to them about how reservations and insurance work and have them call to reserve it. Let them fumble and make mistakes on the call while you're there to coach and encourage them. If they mess up, who cares? They need to practice while the stakes are low."

2. Have them call to pay any medical bills that come in.

Griffin explained, "Show them where to find the date of service and invoice number. Sit with them and coach and encourage them through the call. Tell them what they did right/wrong and watch their confidence grow."

3. Have them call tech support any time something in the home goes down.

This could be the internet, cable, water, air conditioning, etc. "Let them walk through the steps for the internet to come back on," she noted. "These are skills they need when on their own."

4. Have them call to schedule their own haircuts, doctor and dentist appointments, and dog grooming appointments.

"Again, if they sound dumb or forget to say something or ask something, who cares? If they learned something, it was a success!"

5. Have them renew your driver’s license or voter registration online and take ownership of the registration/inspection process.

"They can practice on yours so they know exactly what to do when it’s their turn," wrote Griffin.

6. Have them complete your online curbside pickup grocery order.

"They can look in the pantry and add items your family needs and you can revise when they’re done," shared Griffin. "Give them a weekly budget. This will teach them how much groceries actually cost. Meeting deadlines and budget limitations are real-life job skills. Maybe one day per week, and they can’t use their phones until this is done."

7. Have them research a recipe, add those ingredients to the curbside pickup cart, and make them responsible for cooking dinner one night per week.

Griffin elaborated, "These are skills they need before they launch into the real world so they might as well learn now. Trust me, they’ll spend way more time than you think looking for the perfect recipe." And they may be less likely to rely on Postmates later on!

8. Teach them how to use Microsoft Excel.

"They can use it to make a packing list for your next vacation," suggested Griffin. "Ask them to color-code items for each person and have them pack their own bags. Another Excel idea is making and keeping a personal budget or keeping a schedule of activities they want to do this summer. Have them track income of their lawn mowing job or summer camp fundraising."

9. Have them make Microsoft Powerpoint presentations for grandma’s birthday or Father’s Day.

"You’ll be surprised how much time they’ll put into these and how quickly they learn how to use animation and infographics."

The bottom line, in Griffin's opinion: "If our kids have time for hours of Snapchat or Instagram, they have time to learn marketable skills on these same laptops and devices. As they become more and more confident in these 'adulting' skills, the less anxiety they’ll experience when they’re on their own and are expected to learn them all at once. Ease them into these experiences while you’re there to encourage and equip them."

She also highlighted a side benefit: "Encouraging technology use that creates and contributes to the family connection is critical to combat depression and hopelessness. When they know their parents are counting on them as a critical part of what makes the family work, it increases their sense of purpose and belonging."

Because Griffin has been practicing what she preaches, she said her sons "can confidently navigate self-checkout, withdraw cash from an ATM, pre-pay for gas, make phone calls with confidence, order groceries, manage an Excel budget, order an Uber … mainly because their #HRmom refuses to send them into the workforce without basic skills."

Another bonus: What parent couldn't use an in-home personal assistant?

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