Children and Technology: An Inseparable Bond

29 May

And this is just the beginning..

Having three children under the age of 4, play-dates have become a pretty routine activity for my family.  My kids love to play with their friends and the moms just enjoy sharing some adult conversation.   On any given day, the topic of touch-screen devices almost always comes up in conversation. It’s tough to be a parent these days.  Most families have two parents who are working 40-50 hours a week.  The time the family does have at home together, is often a delicate balance of play time, story time, clean-up time, laundry time, cooking time, and work, brought home time.  So, enters those touch-screen devices.   It is an easy go-to for many parents who are just trying to get something done.  Even as I write in this post, my children are watching their favorite movie on TV.   We have not taken the leap into purchasing an iPad, nor do we have any desire to buy any hand held game consoles for our children.  I’ve heard a lot about the negative effects on children who have spent hours playing games on these devices.  That said, I’m sure there will come a day when our children will want to have the PS2 or another popular hand-held gaming console. For now, I’d rather hold off for as long as we can, until more research can be done on the effects of these devices.  Finding research on the effects of touch-screen devices and children is difficult–and to me, that speaks volumes!

Some professional insight

One posting I found that provided a little insight was on Boston Children’s Hospital’s pediatric health blog.  Dr. Clair McCarthy wrote that she tends to be very negative about touch screen devices when talking to families, stressing a 2-hour time limit to help prevent obesity.  She adds that they (pediatricians) often warn about Facebook depression, exposure to sex and violence, cyberbullying and online predators.  If that’s not enough to get parents thinking, she also chats with them about how texting can keep kids up at night and how video games have been linked to ADHD.  Hmmm, sign me up!  I think we need three iPads…one for each of my kids.   Not quite!!  Reading on though, you get the sense that while there are concerns, there could be some benefits to children using these touch-screens.  Dr. McCarthy says the internet is a great way to teach children things we don’t know.  When they ask a question, (and my 4 year old asks hundreds of them) it can be a wonderful tool to get the correct information to children immediately.  She adds that some websites allow children to see other countries and people all over the world in a way we’ve never been able to see before.   Even I have to admit that some of the websites do seem quite educational for me, and yes, even for my children (McCarthy, 2011.)

Future of Education

Classrooms of the future may very well have iPads at every desk. Wouldn’t that be something.  My husband, who is a fifth-grade teacher, has a smart board in his room.  It’s a huge, interactive touch-screen that the kids love to work with.  As we look at the future of education, we can’t ignore the fact that kids today belong to a generation that has never known a world without hand-held and networked devices. According to the blog,  Tim Elmore, On Leading The Next Generation, American children now spend 7.5 hours a day absorbing and creating media, about the same amount of time they spend in school.”  That’s crazy, but it seems, it’s the direction we are going.  The author also points something out that is kind of an eye-opener to me.  He’s reminding his readers that back in the 1960’s, people were just as worried about TV’s as they are about the hand-held device craze.   The public worried about the effects of time spent in front of the screen, and how it could effect behavior in children.  Then came, “Captain Kangaroo” and “Sesame Street,” and all was well in the world.  So, while TV can be used to show violent images, we have learned through the years it can be used for educational purposes.   Elmore says the same is true for today’s technology.  He says, “Handheld and network devices are at the same turning point, with an important distinction:  they can be tools for expression and connection, not just passive absorption.” (Elmore, 2012)

Full Circle

So, let’s come full circle.  I’m not sure I’m ready to hand my four year-old son an iPad.  I can see how there could be some benefits and according to the article, teachers report educational benefits of  frequent technology,so can teachers.  Some major findings from teachers who use technology frequently in their classroom show there are greater benefits to student learning when technology is used.   In fact, after a study involving more than a thousand students, teachers concluded the more they use technology in the classroom, they more they recognize and value the positive effects on learning and its connection to 21st century skills.   (the Journal)   As much as we may fight it, I think we all have to accept that technology is going to have an impact on our children in more ways than we can imagine.  Our role as parents remain the same however.  I think as our children spend more time on the internet and other devices, we have to do what we always do–protect our children.  In this case, it means moderating the amount of time spent on the devices and managing the content they are being exposed to. 

sources:

McCarthy, C. The new digital reality: why parents and pediatricians may need to rethink their messaging. Retrieved May 28, 2012, from http://childrenshospitalblog.org

Elmore, T. The Future of Education. Retrieved May 28, 2012, from http://blog.growingleaders.com/future-of-education/

http://thejournal.com/articles/2010/06/28/teachers-report-educational-benefits-of-frequent-technology-use.aspx

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