26th Jul 2015

Technology

The good and the bad

With the technological era rapidly progressing many parents are faced with a conundrum.  Technology can really help to extend on a child’s learning but at the same time may reduce their opportunities to develop in many areas. 

So let’s discuss everything that is great about children using technology

You may have noticed that children seem to have a natural engagement with technology. It is not something that we have to teach them to have interest in, they just do. It thus follows that, when utilised correctly,  technology can be used as a great educational tool. Children can absorb a lot of information when they watch a documentary or when they play an educational game on an iPad or computer. Learning through this media not only enhances a child’s cognitive but their fine motor development as well. 

Why is it that children seem to absorb more information through technological media? Our brains have evolved to process visual information. It is harder to retain information when something is merely told to us. However, when a visual aspect is integrated into learning we are much better at remembering. Hence, as technology provides a visual medium to engage with, our learning is enhanced. Furthermore, learning is a layered process. Approaching concepts from various angles and through various mediums will strengthen our learning.

But with all the positives there are also some negatives

Merely giving a child an iPad, computer or television to use does not actively ensure a child is gaining anything positive from their experience. In fact, any non-interactive media (watching tv shows, DVD’s, videos etc.) which encourage passive viewing of technology can result in overuse and over-exposure to screen time.

Furthermore, parents need to consider the importance of physical activity when allowing children to use technological media. Evidence has shown that many children who engage with technology also have decreased interest in being physically active. In addition, there is evidence suggesting that technology use is associated with behavioural, attentional, focus, social, language and academic issues in early childhood.

As mentioned earlier, learning over various medias acts to positive enhance a child's learning. This means that simply providing a child with an iPad with educational games does not ensure a child’s learning is being synthesised. 

So what should you do as a parent/guardian?

The evidence on the use of technology in young children is mixed. As educators we see how interactive technology can be utilised as an effective educational tool. Below I have outlined the guidelines that we should all follow to ensure the best opportunities for our children. 

  1. The most important of the guidelines is that we do not expose children to technology who are under the age of two. Why? This is because technology can reduce a baby’s opportunities to develop physically and socially. It can also have adverse effects on their ability to attend and focus. 

  2. We should not use technology as a primary learning tool. It should only used to extend on children’s current knowledge, thus actively enhance their learning. 

  3. We also should endeavour to ensure that children are only allowed use technology for shortened periods of time. Get up and Grow recommends that parents only allow children between 2-5 to engage with technology for a maximum of one hour at a time for a maximum of two hours a day.

  4. Finally, we should ensure that technology use does not interfere with a child’s opportunity to engage in physical and social activities.  

So to conclude, technology, when used appropriately, can be a great learning tool for children. It is important that as adults we consider the pros and cons to its use and endeavour to ensure it is not misused by our young ones. 

Thanks for reading!

Are you interested in reading about issues in early childhood? If there is a specific topic you would like to read about then please email me on melanie@futurestars.com.au