Should children use technology?

The ongoing discussions about whether children should or should not use technology, particularly of the mobile variety, continue and so they should We need to be clear about what we are dealing with. We need to be clear about the benefits and pitfalls. We need to be clear about what constitutes abuse of technology with children. Mobile devices are everywhere. The internet is everywhere. If you choose not to let your child have unlimited access to technology, then you need to be able to deal with the thoughts around the fact someone else might allow them access. Schools use mobile devices to good effect. Classrooms ought to be a safe, reasonable place for students to learn responsible use and the benefits of technology. Parents who do not want that can use schools which don’t use technology and have a different approach through early childhood. Have we decided what the best age is for using technology? Have we decided what children need in terms of experience when it comes to technology? I have seen primary school children in the Apple store in town. They love it. They are totally focused. I saw children at the Yidaki exhibition in the museum in town. It was an interactive exhibition with a well thought out use of technology to deliver its learning and messages. The children were silent. No one asked them to be silent. They just wanted to be and they wanted to see what the different technology offerings did and how they worked. They were lost in learning. It’s not technology which is the problem. It can certainly be the content and it can be the lack of balance. Everyone needs to practise a range of skills and to be open to learning from all sorts of areas and experiences. There has to be balance.

Taylor and Francis online have some interesting discussions about some of the myths surrounding children and their use of technology which are worth considering. Victoria Prooday is a mother , occupational therapist and blogger who is deeply concerned about the welfare of children in our society and puts forward some strong discussions and ideas about what we need to look at, how we might address it and then what we need to stop avoiding. We all need to look at this so that parents, children, experts and professionals can all have an ongoing conversation about what to do. We do need to manage technology until children can manage it for themselves in the same way we manage driving, ratings for media, travelling. We haven’t quite got it right where we are clear that adults need to be responsible for technology use until children are old enough because we haven’t decided what old enough is and what that means. We don’t have that problem with other things. There is a very good honours project by Kristina Hatch which looks at Determining the Effects of Technology on Children. We need to keep having that calibre of research, the discussions and the conversations. We tend to create opposing sides when we are not sure which way to go and what is the right thing to do. We need to keep exploring the experiences children can have with technology so we endorse the benefits and limit the negatives.

– How old do you believe children should be before they are exposed to technology of all sorts?
I think the only reasons very young children should not be exposed to digital media have to do with matters
of health – I’m not sure we know yet how much of what kind of exposure to electronic devices might have
some kind of negative impact on the development of very young children. But other than that, I see no
reason why babies should not be allowed to enjoy smacking their little hands on an iPad screen and
enjoying the colorful splashes and silly sounds it might make when they do it. The problem is not
technology, its doing any one thing to the exclusion of all others, a kid reading books every minute all day,
every day, is not a good idea either… Kids need a balance of play with all their senses – and the more we
can use our bodies while playing with digital devices, the better for kids. And kids also need a balance of
the real (nature) and the invented (all arts, including computer and video).

Cornelia Brunner – senior research scientist at the Center for Children and
Technology

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