How techie do you want your children to be?
Should you be giving your child technological gadgets as toys? While there is no major study that argues to either side, many parents still wonder if this is right or wrong in terms of early childhood development. We live in a high-tech world and many want their children to be “tech savvy” from a young age while other parents are afraid that introduction to tech toys can lead to seclusion or a replacement of social interaction with the internet. Steve Jobs, for example, said that he knew the dangers of technology first hand and therefore did not want his children to have similar experiences, stating that he had not given them an iPad. Professor Mark Brown, a director of Massey’s National Center for Teaching and Learning, explained that a child must learn the use of computers and tablets, as it will be essential to develop technological proficiency for future jobs, (Technology Essential To Children’s Success, Professor Says, Massey University archives). Whatever our reasons are, it is fair to suggest that the children can either benefit or be harmed by playing with technology depending on the extent and length of that interaction.
Let’s look at some pros of giving tech gadgets as toys to kids:
Parents can get some needed peace and quiet
Today, there are technological toys and gadgets ranging from learning apps, alphabets and live aquariums, to robotic pets such as Ubooly, to Nabi 2 toddlers can literally chew on, tablets, iPads, you name it, it’s there. Parents of small children can use these tech gadgets when driving in a car in rush hour traffic. The pros are clear in some instances where the adults simply need silence and five minutes of peace. You probably are willing to hear Frozen‘s “Let It Go” for a thousandth time for as long as your children do not scream bloody murder strapped in their car seats.
Helping Brain development and increasing learning activities
As mentioned earlier there are infinite amounts of useful applications a child can utilize to help his or her brain development, from SudokuKids to Sparky’s Adventures by Fit Brain to Pilo3, an interactive children’s story book in 3D. Open Solutions, for example, calls its Baby First Puzzle Farm a form of education, a “new and innovative” one for babies. There is an ocean of great information out there for a child to not only gain knowledge from but also to help the child become technologically savvy. Let’s face it, the child’s homework in high school and college at least will involve doing research on a computer and using the Internet, so why not start early so a child is ready to switch focus from one tech form into another.
Music, Books and Digital Interaction
Today a child can be exposed to classical music masterpieces and learning compositions with a push of a button on a phone or a tablet. Similarly, a child can use devices and tech toys such as Bluetooth enabled headphones,listening to audio books, and engaging in interactive touch books that are made for smaller children. There is a world of knowledge out there and listening to wide varieties of music can only enhance your child’s memorization. It has been found that children remember things better when they are set to musical beat (Sawyers & Hutson-Brandhagen, 2004). Moreover, exposure to music helps children develop rhythm, proliferate coordination, and helps them create another form of communication through music (Ferguson, 2005).
So what are the cons of tech gadgets as toys?
Too much technology can lead to distraction
There is no doubt that parents must supervise their children with the usage of technology. Prolonged exposure (hours and hours a day), and overload of techie fun can lead a child to disorientation, anxiety and emotional “numbness,” explained Mali Mann, Adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Stanford University School of Medicine. Furthermore, Mann says that technology relied on too much with children can lead them to technological addiction.
Cyber bullying and predators
A child is an easy target for sexual predators and on-line bullying. With cases well known about the dangers of the Internet world, parents must be careful, and be aware of their children’s on-line activities. Some parents are not even aware of this but did you know that almost 43 percent of children were bullied on line, 1 in 4 experienced it more than once according with DoSomething.org organization this year alone? If this does not scare you, just read the countless stories of parents losing their teenage children to suicide due to cyber bulling. Do you know if and where your child chats online? Could they fall into a trap of a sexual predator? Unfortunately yes, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations warned that it is through cyber chats that children are most likely to become the target of a predator. The FBI stated that children who spend large amounts of time in on-line chat rooms are at most risk, especially during the evening hours. The Bureau also warned that while parental controls are the tools parents should utilize, they should not rely on them alone, and should monitor a child’s chat room closely, i.e. it must be “heavily monitored” (FBI.org).
Substituting people with “toys”, or social withdrawal
If a child spends significant amounts of time on video games for example, this robs from his or her play time and social time outside or even time with parents. There is no doubt that technology, while beneficial to children in terms of learning and social development, can also lead to negative social withdrawals if the times spent on the devices are not controlled by the parents. Many experts say that instead of more tech toys kids are in need of attention and actual good old playtime. Peter Gray, a psychologist and research professor at Boston College, noted that lack of playtime, or “play deprivation,” is bad for children as it may foster “suicide, narcissism, and loss of creativity.”
While there are no definitive conclusions reached or studies done on the effect of technological toys on kids being infinitely bad or great, one thing is most certain, that it is up to parents to draw the line in its usage. In the century we live in it is unarguably important to get a good grasp of technology. How early should we introduce it to children and should we as parents give children various technological gadgets as toys is a matter of balance at the end of the day. Technology is great for children provided they have a healthy balance of school, playtime, parents’ time, study time and so forth.
So what can you do?
Research psychologist Dr. Larry Rosen suggested actively giving children time with you: playing video games with them, talking to them about using technology in healthy ways, encouraging breaks from usage of devices, and family time. The togetherness aspect will increase parental interaction. All these little things will give a parent more control and understanding of where their children’s interests lie in technology and which gadgets should be altered or removed, revisited or revised. The bottom line is, today we cannot afford to ignore the power of technology over our lives, and therefore, we must not overlook its effect on our children.
Featured photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/7QBsAh via flic.kr