Twenty years ago technology for children was thought to be a distraction at best, and at worst an active hindrance to their ability to learn. It’s only in the last decade or so that we’ve really come to grips with the positive outcomes that electronics aimed at children can have on both their development, happiness, and mood.
A big question still looms over whether it’s better to restrict or encourage digital media and a large amount of technology over traditional forms and toys.
On one hand, it helps to make them ‘Digital Natives’, adept at using the ever-increasing amount of technology used in our daily lives, from the smartphone to your train ticket. On the other, physical activity and a healthy lifestyle can be hard to foster, and there’s the question of addiction and inappropriate content as well.
A Positive Force
It’s important to keep tabs and monitor your child’s activity with technology, but with the right approach it can help to foster ties within the family.
According to a recent survey, many Australian parents noticed a change in their children’s behaviour when exposed to technology. 61.3% said their children aged 5 – 7 were more inquisitive, while parents with children aged 11 – 13 said they became more thoughtful.
With the correct planning, one of the biggest perceived downsides of technology use – that it can isolate children or that they can become addicted – can become a family activity.
Interactive children’s books, family games (both traditional and in the form of video games), and a massive amount of other group activities are all accessible to the modern parent; including them in your week can help promote a healthy use of technology as a learning tool as well as allowing you to monitor how your child is handling that use.
Besides, we may think of our devices as causing us to stay inwardly focused and away from the outside world, but it allows us to communicate with people over very long distances. You’ll be able to share thoughts or communicate with your children even when they’re at school or outside with friends.
Create, Create, Create
We also tend to think of technology like it’s still a TV show, and that we’re just passively consuming what’s put in front of us. In 2017, that’s simply no longer true.
If you want to create new horizons for your child, help them get in touch with their creative side, or foster any kind of talent, then you’ll be assured that there’s a way to do it digitally.
If you have a young artist, then a drawing tablet might be a great Christmas or birthday present, allowing them to create digital art that eclipses some of the best hand paintings and drawings.
Perhaps you have a child that loves to speak, act, write, or perform. There’s plenty of avenues for young children to make home movies, or to try their hand at the world of YouTube (a viable career path that barely existed a decade ago).
Even if you’re looking at a promising young sports star, there’s nothing like seeing the greats in action. When they’re not running about on the field, set them up with some games from the Greats, or instructional videos that they can practise with to learn some new tricks.
Not Better Or Worse, But Different
Technology changes how we perceive the world. Reading on the internet or surfing on your smartphone is rewiring your neural network, and that of your children, promoting some skills while neglecting others.
For example: using a lot of web-based technology rewards young minds for skimming surfaces. In fact, modern humans are fantastically amazing at processing huge amounts of information in a tiny amount of time. We’re amazing at it, on a scale that our ancestors would never have dreamed of.
This comes with a downside, however. Just like how at one point humans needed the skills to create houses or build fires throughout their life (whereas now we have builders and ovens), we’re less good with the skills that allow us to delve really hard into data. We’re still good at sorting between 100 piles, but ask us to really analyze one of them thoroughly and somebody from 50 years ago might have the upper hand.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though! It all comes down to where you stand. 8 in 10 Australian households think that it’s better to focus on how to best use technology, and to find a balance between digital and physical interaction, than to stop relying on the digital as a valuable learning tool.
Don’t oversaturate your kid with too much time on their devices (it’s usually recommended children 2-5 have about 1 hour a day, and older than that 1-2), but allow them room to breathe. Just make sure to check in with them; if they’re beginning to have problems concentrating or seem a lot better at surface concepts than deep concepts, then consider forming a schedule that might help them do better with both instead.
Gwen Mackey – “Mother, daughter, wife & writer. Just one of many Wonder Women in the world.”