There is no doubt about the impact technology has on our lives. With the birth of the internet and the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and pocket sized computers this technology is now inescapable. What is new and awe-inspiring to us as adults is just as new to a child or toddler as a banana or jigsaw. The question then is; as parents, how can we influence the use of technology for our children and what, if any, limitations should this include? Many parents are immersed in technology and forever playing on their smartphone or laptop, won’t even consider the ramifications that this technology will have on their children’s development. Not to mention that children have a tendency to imitate the behaviour of their parents; monkey see monkey do. Could this all be leading to teen-tech-addicts? What can we do as parents to prevent this?
As parents we can’t raise our children in caves or keep them away from technology but we do need to teach them to use technology correctly as a tool; it is how we use it and what we do with it that determines whether it will help or hurt our children’s development. There has been a decline in recent years of reading levels and conversational skills among young adults. This is often put down to the overexposure to computers with spell-check and social networking. Surely it is down to parents and teachers to influence the way that kids are using these mediums so it can be used in a constructive way. However, parents have less influence over their children today than they once did; this is can be attributed to the outside factors no longer remaining outside of the family home. With laptops, phones, TV, cable, satellite, and radio all now common features in the home, culture and outside influences are ever-present and inescapable.
Research conducted by AVG technologies found that more children knew how to play a computer game than swim or ride a bike, and that more pre-schoolers knew how to use a smartphone than tie their shoelaces. With App’s being directly produced for children and toddlers such as finger painting or interactive stories it isn’t surprising that children spend more and more time using technology then reading or interacting with their parents. This isn’t to suggest a ban on all interactive usage for kid’s but perhaps we ought to look at how that time is spent.
It used to be the case that time spent in front of a computer was solitary and educationally of little value. However, with the development of new and exciting games that facilitate learning to count, the learning of languages and much more, this time can be better spent. This can be either with parents or in groups and involve an interactional element that wasn’t previously available. This way technology can be used as a tool of learning and not merely for shopping or watching baby panda’s sneeze on you tube videos.
The best way to influence your children’s use of technology is to encourage communication, creativity and collaboration whilst they play. Your children can use the flashing microphone that teaches them to speak French all they like, but without the interaction and collaboration with a parent they won’t learn. Newer technologies and electronic toys can be used as a way to distract or quieten children, and parents can be less responsive, less encouraging and can do less teaching for their child. In this way technology is becoming like a pacifier and is driving us apart. However, with a little more influence and interaction, your child can use technology to enrich their education and the content of what they are using or playing with will become far more important than just using or playing with the technology.