For most of you reading this, your childhoods consisted of outdoor games of tag, actual dictionaries, and board games. However, today you will see most children constantly engrossed in some type of mobile device or tablet. Whether they have their own devices to play games on or they use their parents' phones and tablets in order to stay occupied, more and more children are connected to these screens. Are these new technologies helping your children grow? Or are they harming developing children?
Here we have outlined a few key points on this topic. After you read, let us know what you think about the effects of technology on developing children.
Mindless or Mindful?
It is easy to see how technology fosters mindlessness on today’s society given that technology creates a constant barrage of information and connectivity to others. Social media platforms, like Twitter and Instagram, send children a continuous stream of information and updates, not allowing the mind to rest and think. Children, much like adults, often have little willpower to detach themselves from this all day connectivity putting them in an unending stressful and hyper-vigilant state. It is hard for children to reach a calm state between school and their constant involvement in activities paired with technology use. This can cause them to miss out on developing healthy, mindful states that usually come from reading books, playing pretend, or going for a walks outside. Recent research reports that these technological distractions prevent a state of focused flow which then leads to unhappiness. As technology grows so does the intensity of such distractions.
The Effect on Childhood
As adults, we know how easy it is to get absorbed in technology because we interact with it on a daily basis. Children, however, are more easily tempted by and affected by technology. The overuse of technology can negatively affect one's daily routine as well as personal relationships and social skills. Parents are constantly looking for ways to keep their children occupied and modern day tech devices have become an easy, effective solution. With technology children can play games like Monopoly on their own, instead of waiting turns with their friends. Unlike friends, the devices are always available and require little effort to use. According to Business Insider, 40% of 10-11-year-old children who use tablets and phones, have deterioration of their posture along with other ailments.
But can this be changed?
The Impact of Technology
Be sure to check out Huffington Post’s article on this topic. The main takeaway is that there are physical, psychological, and behavioral effects that put children at risk when using technology. However, it is not ALL bad. Children need a healthy balance and should be taught when it is appropriate to use tech devices and when to shut them down. Just like educational TV shows, like Sesame Street which can improve math and literacy skills, educational apps can do the same. You can find programs to help with the alphabet, vocabulary, and math skills. When used appropriately, technology can be effective tools to support learning and development in young children.
Technology To Explore
Caroline Hu Flexer, at AppCamp, says the Khan Academy is “trying to design experiences for kids that empower them and make them feel successful”.
- Park Math (ages 3-up) - Teaches children math, counting, quantities, adding, subtraction, numerals by allowing children to explore seven easy to explore games, each with multiple ways to explore some powerful math concepts.
- Fish School (ages 2-5) - Teaches children logic, math, the alphabet, letter recognition, shapes, memory by exploring with their fingertips, in this colorful underwater playground, where a school of quick swimming fish illustrates numerals, the alphabet song, and a set of shapes.
- Word Wagon (ages 1-7) - Teaches children reading, letter and word recognition, spelling up to six letter words. The app is designed specifically to prepare a child for a school reading program, Word Wagon is a well-designed letter and word recognition activity that provides structured practice with letters and letter sounds in the context of common words.
- Fisher-Price Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar - This unique caterpillar learning technology encourages kids to experiment as they play, helping them to develop problem-solving, planning & sequencing and critical thinking skills. You can find other Think & Learn products that help children build critical skills like critical thinking and problem solving here.
For more information on children and technology, visit Children’s Technology Review and subscribe to their monthly report. Keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends zero device screen time for children under 2 and maximum of two hours a day for children 3-18 years old. However, if introduced appropriately, and used in moderation the use of technology can be helpful to their development.