The current developments in technology are astounding and the rate of development is predicted to only increase. With this new era of technology, we now have generations of children who are exposed to things that no previous generation was exposed to. Everywhere you go now, be it restaurants, grocery stores, the mall, etc., you are almost guaranteed to see a toddler with their eyes glued to a screen. The distraction of an iPhone may be a relief to parents going about their daily tasks, but is it beneficial to the child?
Many parents take the stand against their children using technology for more than a certain amount of time per day. Their reasons include that technology can become addictive and that it can inhibit social interaction. Other parents argue that technology provides endless learning opportunities for children as they have the world’s information at their fingertips. Stirling University School of Education conducted a study that showed that parents’ attitude towards technology in the home influences the child’s own association with technology. The university stated, “The technology did not dominate or drive the children’s experiences; rather their desires and their family culture shaped their forms of engagement.”
Psychologist Dr. Aric Sigman urged parents in 2012 to limit their children’s screen time, stating that children are spending more time on a screen than ever, in addition to starting earlier. He claims that longer screen times (television, video games, and social media) can lead to increased rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and depression. Not only are kids sedentary for too long, Dr. Sigman states, but longer screen times may have an adverse effect on the brain chemical dopamine which may lead to a shorter attention span and depression.
The University of Reading also stated that research has found negative effects of screen time on the cognitive development of children under the age of three. In 2017, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their screen time guidelines, stating that children under the age of two should have no screen time, while children over the age of two should be limited to two hours per day.
However, many experts believe that screen time in toddlers and children have more benefits than costs.
Psychologists have conducted studies that show that most children will split their time between screen time and non-technological activities, like playing outside. They do not show a preference for technology and still thoroughly enjoy playing with toys, other children, and their families. Another study in 2011 by Takeuchi and Stevens showed that social interaction was not obstructed by technology. In fact, children watching their favorite program tended to select toys that were similar to the characters they saw on screen and play with them in a manner that represented what they saw on screen. Children also dressed up as their favorite characters and enjoyed when their family members would play along. Not only are children’s play patterns not interrupted by technology, but technological advances have made it easier for children to communicate with loved ones, contrary to the popular belief that technology can make children antisocial.
For the first time, children are able to Skype and FaceTime their loved ones whenever they want to. Not only can they hear their loved ones’ voices, but they can see them through a screen. This leads to a stronger bond between children and their relatives, especially if their relatives live far away.
Online games and apps are also targeted to toddlers and children to help them learn.
Whereas, in the past, a child had a certain number of books and educational toys and they had to wait for an adult to teach them, modern technology has given children thousands on books, videos, and learning tools online. Interactive stories and games allow children to learn at any point in time, without the guidance of a parent or teacher (although, parental guidance when using technology is recommended). Children and toddlers are absorbing more information than ever before and learning at a faster rate than previous generations.
The University of Cincinnati states that technology has also been helpful to children with learning disabilities.
Programs and apps can help children develop the skills they lack, as well as allow them to learn at their own pace. Many children also seem to develop more confidence when they learn with assistive technology, rather than when they learn in the classroom at the same level as everyone else. The introduction to technology in the classroom has aided special needs students not just in the classroom, but in the community as it helps them participate in ways that were previously not possible.
There are arguments at both ends of the spectrum on the topic of technology and children. Some experts claim that it is harmful, while others claim that it is beneficial. The one thing that most teachers, parents and researchers alike agree on is that limits need to be upheld. Too much of a good thing is never good, yet preventing children from using technology completely is just as bad.
Both technology and children are the future, and raising future generations with a strong grasp on technology will not only help them as they develop and enter the adult world, but it may change the world for the better. After all, in a few decades, the children of today will be developing our future with technology.
But, for now, maybe limit the Paw Patrol.