When to Introduce Children to Technology
From the day children start to grasp objects in their hands, you will find your smartphone and gadgets becoming the most common victims. Your iPad screen will be imprinted with their tiny fingerprints mingled with drool marks. This is the stage when you begin to keep your laptop away as punching keys on the keyboard is your toddler’s new pastime.
But just because your children know about the power button and they can play and pause videos, it doesn’t mean that they are ready for technology. Every minute that your child wastes in front of the screen, they lose a chance to explore the real world with all their five senses, and using technology at such an early age can be detrimental to their development.
Concerned parents have a number of unanswered questions when they are raising children in a technology driven world.
- How young is too young to let children use technology?
- How should technology be introduced to children?
- What technology is appropriate and does not hinder the development of young children?
Difference in Opinion
How young is too young to let children use technology?
Researchers have different opinions regarding the matter. Some feel that technology can be introduced to children when they are in infancy. Out of the parents surveyed, 72% of whom had kids from 0-6 years, believed that technology helped their children learn and was quite beneficial. Researchers supporting the notion suggest that children at this age can be introduced to software that allows them to draw and paint and use their creativity. If they can create picture stories and think logically, then such apps should be encouraged. However, they also say that at this age, children should be discouraged from playing aggressive and competitive games.
Researchers are not sold entirely on the idea though. They argue that toddlers thrive on human contact and televisions and computer screens should be avoided completely. Parents can however, use electronic toys to interact with their children so long as they enhance direct interaction between children and their parents.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued a statement that children under the age of two should not be exposed to media at all, for this act substitutes the parents’ interaction with children which is directly linked to their early brain development. Positive human interaction is important for children as compared to being entertained by the TV.
According to researcher, Susan Haughland, computers just do not match the learning style of children under three years. Toddlers at this stage learn through their eyes, hands and legs and computers do not fit the bill.
Most parents find a balance between the opinions. They allow their children to use drawing software but do not encourage them excessive use of gadgets and persuade them to engage more in physical activities.
How should technology be introduced to children?
With many schools promoting learning through technology, it is time for you to handle this chapter with your child. Here are some ways you can officially introduce technology to your child.
Set up Controls and Internet Safety
Before you let your child use your gadgets, set up restrictions on all devices that may lead your child to content that is not appropriate for their age. Set up parental controls on the computer. If you have aggressive games or adult appropriate apps on your tablet, make them password protected so your kid stays safe.
Configure the internet browser’s settings to limit access to certain websites that you would not want your children to visit. Bookmark age-appropriate websites for your kids so they do not have to explore to find them. The less they surf, the better are their chances of staying safe online.
Supervise their online activities
All experts agree that the best way to teach your children about tech and the internet is to log on with them and stay involved. Be present when your child is using your devices. Read along with them if they are using your Kindle to read books.
Choose smart applications
When downloading apps for your child, make sure they are educational or that they encourage logical or analytical thinking. Refrain from purchasing apps that are just for idle fun. For example, puzzle games or number games will be better than downloading ‘Fruit Ninja’.
Researchers say that children should not have a screen time that exceeds two hours. If your child is habitual of using multiple devices, make sure they use them all in those two hours only. But as you would already know, that taking a smartphone from a kid when they are in the middle of a game is a chore in itself. Children do not respond well to transitions. Encourage your children to follow rules and stick to them yourself too, to serve an example.
Developmentally Appropriate Technology for Kids
With so many options to choose from, parents may find it overwhelming to choose the right ones that would meet their children’s needs. Children are attracted to computers and smartphones because of their colorful graphics, sound and animation. So parents shouldn’t be fooled by apps that look child-friendly at face value. Before downloading anything, ask yourself if this software creates learning opportunities that do not exist without it.
Another great way of letting children get their hands dirty with technology is to buy them programmable toys. These toys are an amazing way of developing your child’s creative ability and logical thinking as they would customize the toys to do what they want by programming them. Moreover, they will also learn the mechanics of building by experimenting with nuts and bolts.
Parents should be mindful that they are not just letting their kids use technology because they want them to stay quiet in the car. It’s easy to bribe your children with tech gadgets while you steal a few hours for yourself to catch up on sleep. But this can be counterproductive.
Make sure you are not one of those parents who have their iPhones glued to their hands while they tell their kids to limit their own tech use. Children learn more from examples so be that role model for them to follow.