Yair Ariel • July-7-2017
In a previous post we discussed tech shaming kids. Although, many argue the benefits of technology exposure is important in early childhood development there are those who encourage waiting. As parents we use technology to babysit and entertain our children for few seconds. Then we fight for screen time when our kids can’t disconnect. As educators we understand the importance of technology in education. Exposure to technology has both positive and negative connotations.
Children today will spend over a year of their life on screen time
Technology exposure has been linked to mental health, social anxiety, and decrease in social and cognitive functions. Studies show a correlation between technology exposure and anxiety. Other negative effects include depression, fluctuation in mood, and interest. Some studies even argue that exposure prior to two years of age affects the developmental process of the brain. Then there are those that confirm technology exposure is necessary.
As a parent we also tend to think that mainstream culture is pressuring us to expose children to technology at an alarmingly young age. As educators we believe in encouraging technology exposure. I remember teaching first grade at Livingway Christian Academy. I was the young techie teacher over 15 years ago. Knowing then that technology is the future of education, I’ve always been one to enjoy its benefits. It wasn’t long before my efforts tired from dwindling budgets and lack of support from the administration.
In truth, as a parent I can vouch that my kids spend way too much time on mobile devices. My four year old nephew was glued to his iPad last week over the fourth of July weekend. Meanwhile, my under five godchildren are just as savvy and consumed by technology.
A study identified key findings in technology exposure in children.
- Children’s access time spent on mobile is higher and continues to grow than in previous years
- The average time spent on mobile has tripled among children
- Traditional screen time has decreased drastically
- Digital educational content continues to grow
But should children be exposed to technology?
Truth is technology exposure is proven to enhance hand eye coordination. This occurs when children follow objects on a screen and actually engage in the game or app. Moreover, providing the opportunity in developing higher order thinking and application through engagement. We also can’t argue that it doesn’t enhance a child’s capacity for visual attention. Every detail on the screen is carefully observed for cues that help plan a child’s next move.
Take a look at Go Fishing and you’ll see what I mean
Let’s not forget how technology helps develop motivation. Parents and educators alike can use tech time as a reward for positive behavior. This type of reinforcement and practice encourages a positive social cognitive behavior. This exposure also increases spatial awareness. It also improves problem solving. The technology also draws out individual talents. Surely children who are more musically inclined will perform better in apps that focus on developing that skill. Likewise those who have a higher tendency in recognition, repetition, and patterns are more likely to overdevelop these skills.
Despite the contradicting viewpoints and research what do you do?
We know that technology exposure is of utmost importance. However, the fear that our children’s brains will turn to mush will always be in the back of our mind. Here is what you should do.
- Encourage positive experiences with technology.
- Don’t tech shame your kids and don’t let others tech shame them either.
- Limit the amount of technology exposure to small periods rather than long tireless hours in front of technology.
- Use technology to reinforce cognitive skills.
- Don’t use technology as a babysitter in your home or your classroom.
- Link learning concepts to interactive games to make tech exposure count.
Here is the skinny you want to delay your child’s technology exposure. But reality is that technology is here to stay. We need to accept it. We live in a digital world. The more we delay technology exposure the more we go against mainstream culture. Although there there are some negative effects of technology exposure we can not ignore its benefits.
In moderation technology, exposure is necessary. Children need technology exposure so they can explore. Furthermore kids need to play and learn to use technology in communicating. Give children control. Let them engage and empower their own learning. Technology exposure should be playful, creative, and fun. Be the positive example children need to model and engage with technology.
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