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When is the right time to introduce kids to technology for learning?

An EdTech Monday Conversation

Increasingly we see technology playing a major part in improving teaching and learning. For teachers and educational institutions, this means better and more innovative teaching methods. For children, technology opens doors to creative & experiential learning in and outside the classroom. But what is the right time for early learners to embrace technology as a learning tool? What impact does technology have on the learning and growth of children at critical developmental stages and how can every child benefit from these technologies?

These were the points of discussion during this month’s episode of EdTech Monday, a platform to facilitate critical conversation on the use of technology for teaching and learning, an initiative of the Mastercard Foundation in partnership with MEST Africa.

Discussing the topic ‘Tech 4 Ed: Is It Ever “too Early”, parents, health professionals, educators, and policymakers shared their thoughts and insights on the benefits, fears, and impact associated with introducing technology to children.

WHAT IS THE RIGHT AGE TO INTRODUCE TECHNOLOGY AND WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS?

For most parents, technology has become an unavoidable part of life, thus an incentive to encourage children to use them. However, there are divided opinions on the best time to introduce children to technology for learning, without compromising their safety and morals.

“For me, I would choose age 2+ for a child to have access to internet and technology devices,” said Afawubo Twum-Ampofo, a parent.

For Kukua Apenteng, another parent, the ideal age to expose her child to technological devices is 5years, since she believes that at that age her child would have developed enough environmental recognition and skill to be exposed to the internet. She however worries about the lack of control over what her child may be exposed to on the internet or the possibility of being too addicted and missing out on real-life experiences.

WHAT DO THE EXPERTS SAY?

Dr. Abishai Anlimah, Clinical Psychologist at The Brain & Mind Centre, on the question of age appropriateness, referred to research findings by the American Academy of Paediatrics which recommends age-appropriate limitations for introducing children to technology.

“From birth to about 18 months, they recommend strongly that parents should not hand screens or tablets to children. When the child is between 18 to about 24 months, they recommend that tech devices can be introduced to the child up to a limit of 30mins per day on the devices, tv screens, and others. Then from 2 years to 5 years, they recommend that the child shouldn’t spend more than an hour on these tech devices. Between 6 and 12 years, parents can extend the time from 1 to about 2 hours per day”, said Dr. Anlimah.

He also emphasized that parents must train children to use technology in moderation and must always be present to observe and supervise the child’s online activity. This he said was essential, as new findings in health show that the brain doesn’t fully develop until from 18 to 24 years. ``Thus, parents need to be careful about certain devices and contents that could affect the development of the brain”, he added.

Adding on to this, Dr. Naomi Agyepong the Director of Operations at Alpha Beta Education Centres explained that: “The fundamental purpose of every child’s development is to make sure the children develop socially, physically, and morally.”

In her experience, one of the key things to consider when introducing children to technology for learning, whether they are videos on Youtube, apps, or other online tools, is that educators need to think about how a child is going to benefit. For instance, teachers and guardians can reinforce a concept with a video or song to compliment what is being taught. She added that tools should be used to enhance teaching and learning experiences.

HOW DO WE ENSURE ACCESS?

In most parts of the world like Ghana, access to infrastructure and devices for technological learning play a key role in how children are trained. Dr. Agyepong explained that a teacher with access to a technology device to aid in teaching, makes a huge difference, however, the environment exploration and curiosity when learning subjects like natural science are important.

With most of the learning materials originating from other countries, Mrs. Ama Serwah Nerquaye-Tettey, Secretary-General, Ghana Commission for UNESCO, highlighted the need for local content to be maintained so children do not end up adopting foreign cultures at the expense of our local culture.

“If this is to be part of our curriculum, then we must make sure our songs, our stories can be found online. ,” she concluded.

EdTech Mondays is an initiative of the Mastercard Foundation’s Regional Centre for Innovative Teaching and Learning in ICT and part of the Foundation’s strategy to find solutions to Africa’s youth employment by closing the gap in access to quality education, and advancing the integration of technology in education policies and practices across Africa.

To realize this vision in Ghana, the Mastercard Foundation has partnered with MEST Africa to bring EdTech Monday on the last Monday of every month.

Watch the full conversation here

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Navigating the African tech ecosystem through news, lessons learned, and best practices from entrepreneurs, investors, and hubs across the tech ecosystem. Produced by MEST.

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MEST Africa

MEST Africa

The largest Africa-wide technology entrepreneur training program, internal seed fund, and network of hubs offering incubation for startups: www.meltwater.org

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