Technology has become a crucial part of education and learning, the work environment and even parenting. Younger generations, more often than not, will have the advantage of being exposed to and becoming familiar with new technology early on. This can help to instill more advanced skills related to research, discovery and creativity. However, the misuse of that same technology can be detrimental to a child’s intellectual and emotional development.
Instead of seeking answers from their parents, children who have been gifted with a smartphone around the ripe age of nine-and-a-half can just Google their questions or concerns. Whether the information they find and choose to accept is true or not, it’s making an impact. Information on the internet can often be misleading or incorrect. And information about sensitive and important topics such as sex and reproductive health, alcohol and drug use, trouble with their friends or questions about their identity are all topics that are often best addressed genuinely and gently by a parent rather than the internet.
I see a lot of parents who pacify their restless children with an iPhone or an iPad, and it’s true that there are educational apps available, but parents typically aren’t always actively monitoring what their child is doing on the device. They could be playing countless rounds of Angry Birds or other games that temporarily and mindlessly relieve boredom and waste time, or they could be on the verge of the urban dictionary definition of that highly inappropriate word they heard for the first time that day on the playground.
In an article from Digital Trends, research psychologist and educator Dr. Larry Rosen offers insight on the subject of communication, and social media’s influence on children. “(Kids) are getting more practice communicating with others and this can be a good thing … kids are also being exposed to situations that are not necessarily appropriate for their developmental level. That is important, as they will react from a younger place compared to facing the same situation later in their preteen or teen years when they have passed more developmental milestones.”
Essentially, Rosen is saying that a balance must be found between the ways technology can help a child grow and the ways it can act as a detriment. I agree that the line between the use and misuse of technology in the hands of children must be clear cut. In order for children to be exposed to age-appropriate content and to know when it’s time to put the smartphone down and go play outside or read a book, parents and other influential adults in a child’s life must play the role of moderator.
Moderation of our use of technology, especially when it comes to children, will continue to become increasingly important as technology further integrates into our everyday lives. Children aren’t too picky when it comes to playing games, and if it gets their attention they’ll buy in. I think children should be exposed to educationally relevant and age-appropriate apps such as Lumosity, Reading Raven, Social Quest and Numerosity: Play With Math!. Of course the fun, mindless games can be mixed in sparingly as well. However, I also think it’s important to remember the value of a good old-fashioned family game night with face-to-face interaction and bonding for good measure.
It’s also important to just be mindful of what kids may be Googling and viewing on the internet when using a smartphone or other mobile device, whether it’s their own or it belongs to their parents. This doesn’t mean they need to be hovered over for the entirety of the time a child spends on an iPad in order to protect them from the “evil” that is the internet. Just be proactive – maybe start a conversation about what the child learned the last time they did a Google search. This could help to hold them accountable for the content they are choosing to access.
In the long run, exposing children to more education-oriented apps and moderating their time spent using technology could help them to develop a more positive perspective on school and learning, and a stronger sense of time management. Children are highly impressionable, and if there are ways to guide them away from turning into monsters of mindless consumption when it comes to technology, then I think we should pay a little extra attention and utilize them.
Collegian Assistant Opinion Editor Haleigh McGill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @haleighmcgill.