At what age should a child start using technology? Is it healthy to get them hooked on to laptops and tablets at a tender age? Children in today’s world must use technology. There are no two ways about it. But figuring out how much and how often can be a challenge.
Some argue that these children are ‘digital natives’ i.e. they are born and brought up in the age of digital technology, so they being familiar and comfortable with computers, the Internet and technology, in general, is no big deal. Some others argue that getting kids addicted to technology from childhood can be harmful to their overall development.
There are both advantages and disadvantages of using technology. It would be difficult to take a stand either for or against it without understanding what the impact of advantages and the consequences of disadvantages are.
So, let’s start with the advantages.
Better motor skills: Little ones, especially toddlers have chubby hands. When kids play with computers, mouse or the touch pads, their little fingers get a good exercise. The buttons on the gizmos today are ergonomically designed and are touch sensitive. So, the risk of injury to their little fingers is greatly reduced. In effect, their hands and fingers become nimble with more and more usage, thereby improving their motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Improved cognition: Till recently it was thought that watching cartoons would cause attention deficit in young kids and make them dull. However, many studies have now proved that cartoons don’t make a child dull. Technology can aid in cognitive skill development. There are many interactive learning apps, puzzles, videos, animated rhymes and games available in the market. These games and apps help improve the cognitive and retention function of little children.
Keeps a child occupied: Little children can spend hours on the smartphone, television or video games. You don’t have to worry about them getting injured, getting lost, dirty walls, fights or tantrums. They can stay riveted to the system for long.
Engaging and fun: The special effects, music, increasing levels of challenges etc. keep the child engaged for long and its fun while there are at it.
Quick retention and understanding: Learning apps have made visualisation easier. Teaching concepts to younger kids is now easy. For e.g. describing a wave is much more difficult than showing them an animation about it. Audiovisuals, 3D representations, audiobooks, videos etc. have revolutionized education. Concepts can be not just be easily understood but retained for long as well. They are likely to learn more and learn quickly, maybe faster than some of their seniors.
Let’s now talk about some disadvantages or bane of using technology for kids.
Unfit, sedentary lifestyle: Children who are always tied down to their tablets or computer run the risk of sedentary lifestyle diseases such as obesity, depression, withdrawal symptoms, poor eyesight and more. A child who stays away from the sun, from running and playing with friends in the park, may turn out to be unfit. Kids require a good amount of physical activity for their overall growth. Sports and games are a must for healthy development of a child. More and more kids are staying away from the outdoors and this is a matter of concern. Parents must ensure that there is a judicious mix of indoor and outdoor activities for the overall development of your child.
Reduced social skills: Spending too much time on the system, away from human interaction leads to reduced social skills. Face-to-face interaction is on the decline. It’s easier to chat or talk to a person on the phone. Kids who spend too much time on their phones and laptops find it difficult to mingle with kids and adults. In fact, they may not even feel the need to do things that children of their age do, such as participating in family events or competitions etc. The child may turn cold to emotions and may not be able to react to real-life situations as expected.
Less connected: As more are more people go online, families are growing smaller, and nuclear families are now the norm. With both parents working, children are now left in the care of nannies and day care centres with a laptop or mobile for their entertainment, thereby isolating children in their formative years. As years go by, loneliness can set in and it can get quite dreadful to manage.
Unrealistic views and perceptions: A virtual world is all about simulation. Everything that one experiences fall within this virtual world. For example, a child who is good at an online game of tennis need not be good at the real game. So the child who is exceptional in the virtual world of tennis can have a false sense of achievement and will not want to venture out to the real world. Alternatively, if they do venture out and face problems in real life, they will immediately seek comfort in their virtual world. Instead of tackling the problems at hand, they will run away from that problem or challenge.
Arguments can be made both for and against technology. Parents must make an informed choice based on what they think is right for their child and for their family. Investigate the pros and cons thoroughly, consider your child’s personality, needs and wants and then plan how much of technology a child can be exposed to accordingly.