Technology and Children: When Does It Become Too Much?
Technology can be a parent’s best friend as well as worst nightmare. The ever-changing world of technology features, products, apps and software has changed so many things that we as a society know and use. Many parents can remember what life was life when typing was completed on a typewriter and using the computer was something you only did in college while researching your dissertation. Millennials and millennial parents were introduced to technology in their youth and have grown up using and learning it but never becoming dependant on it as a child. Only into our current state have we as adults seen such an influx in the use of technology, advancing almost every aspect of our lives faster than we can even catch up.
Flash forward to our children in today’s society and technology has a whole new grasp on their lives – in every single aspect. From education to social interacting with others, technology has advanced our children so far ahead of the times, they learn to “swipe left or right” before they can trace their ABC’s. As a parent of young children who love using technology for learning or just play, I often find myself amazed at the world being so accessible to their little, tiny fingertips and yet I fear how dependent they have become on their iPad or tablet to complete tasks or entertain themselves. I often find myself asking the question, “When is this technology getting to be too much for them?” as so many other parents seen to have the same concern. We have listed some of the major pros and cons of offering your child the use of technology and ways that you can integrate it in your child’s lifestyle through healthier options.
This day and age, most children have access to technology even at a young age. Preschool children are engaging in technology for learning and schools promote integrated class settings to provide even the youngest children with the opportunity to use technology on an educational platform. To say that technology has changed the face of education is significantly an understatement. Adding tech to a classroom or integrating an educational game into a student’s lesson plan can personalize learning, building on their strengths and making learning more fun! The potential for technology to take a student and help them soar in education is limitless when you offer them technology that helps them learn at their own pace and promotes the type of learning style they can learn best from. Slower learners have ways of finding their passions and promoting programs that focus on STEM learning or math and science have reached demographics of children that otherwise would have had little interest in. Technology has adapted learning for any and everyone in a fun and interesting way. Technology has completely changed the face of learning and when your child does not participate in this integrated education, they can fall behind with their tech savvy skills.
Since education has readily promoted the use of technology becoming such a staple in classrooms that it surpassed being an asset, and has become the online classroom for many. Students in elementary grades, high school or college can now take remote courses or complete assignments via online studies, offering children opportunities they would have never had otherwise. Taking away technology from schools, children or teens is similar to removing pencils or crayons from their learning environments. Technology has been wonderful to promote differentiated learning styles to a variety of children, learning in a variety of ways and once they connect to learning via tech – often it just makes learning “make more sense”. The pros of technology in education is limitless for today’s youth.
With every positive, it can be said that there are hundreds of negative impacts on our children and their technology use. Younger and younger you see children using technology – from smartphones to laptops or connected devices of their own, children have literally become dependent on technology in their little lives. Because of the instant connection kids can make to any social media outlet, they have seemingly become disconnected from the rest of the world. Many children are losing valuable social skills and lack interaction with actual individuals, seeming to lose interest in any personal relationships they have that aren’t developed through a screen. Often, the relationships that they can develop online are troublesome and open doors to bullying and antisocial tendencies that develop when personal interaction is lost. Scott Spradley, CIO at HPE was quoted saying, “I am concerned that children are losing the ability to communicate effectively—both written and verbally. I am also concerned that they are not able to handle conflict verbally.” We are losing our physical connections with our youth through instant online connections they attain.
Our children also have an instant entertainment outlet that has made creativity something of the past. Our kids rely on technology to entertain them so early on, they become dependent on tech for their immediate entertainment gratification, losing the ability to think outside the box or create ideas for their own boredom or free time when they aren’t engaged. Although games and tech in educational form are good, it can take away from the desire to self process and learn, leaving kids in a state of immediate need for validation or verification instead of processing learning and skills out of curiosity or creative thinking.
Technology has also taken a toll on our children physically. The dependence of technology has taken away their desire to get outdoors and experience playtime. Many kids can become so engrossed with screen time that they lose themselves completely in their device, spending hours upon hours sitting on the couch in front of their monitor or device and creating unhealthy habits towards their eating and sleep routines. Pediatricians have studied the physical cons of kids overusing technology and tech devices reporting their eye site in general has worsened due to extended periods of viewing a screen as well as their overall health and wellness taking a toll from extended sitting or lack of movement.
As a parent, what can you do to help your child balance technology in their everyday life? Create a tech schedule for them to follow, allowing for a balance of screen time and physical activity and play. Young children need to develop other skills other than “swiping and clicking” so make sure to engage with them and get outside together. Often, parents can use technology and certain devices as a “babysitter” when they are trying to complete tasks themselves so offer your children time away from devices for the both of you, putting down your phone or tablet to show them how you can function in a healthy and fun way without technology. Monitor your children’s online activity and teach them about the dangers that can be present online. It’s a scary world out there and connections they may make online may not be the type of contacts you want them to be around. Risky behavior is far more accessible online and can easily be hidden to monitor your child’s online profiles and search activity. Help them make interpersonal relationships in person and promote social settings that interest them instead of connecting solely online. Children should connect with others to learn and play together.
In the end, technology will always be a constant factor in so many aspects of your child’s education, social and personal life – but it doesn’t have to be the MOST constant item. Having a balanced lifestyle that included technology in moderation is healthy for everyone involved, parents and children a like. Seeing technology as a tool that you can use is important and as a parent, promoting a well rounded lifestyle and offering a variety of important skills is the most important factor – technology included or not.
– Lacey Noland, writer and blogger at Lou Times Two :: Lifestyle & Parenting blog