Kids and Technology... too much, too soon?

Christopher ReedLevel 2 Software Support Engineer
At the age of 2, both my son and daughter could unlock my Apple iPhone (with no pass code set, of course).  My son is now 6 and has his own computer and Amazon Kindle.  My daughter is 3 and uses my wife's Apple iPad regularly.  For all of you older folks in the audience you must remember something about being that age.  I was playing with plastic building blocks and small metal cars in a dirt pile.

I would venture to guess that almost all of you who have stumbled across this article have come to the same conclusion... times have changed.  The purpose of this article is to discuss whether or not giving children early access to electronic devices is hindering their development.  I hope to be impartial between the two sides, but being in the Information Technology field myself, I may sway towards one side a little.  I am going to try and keep the discussion points at a minimum since there are many different ways to approach this topic.

1.) Access to electronics affect a child's use of his/her imagination.

I think I heard a resounding "Yes" from a few readers.  The plastic blocks and metal cars I spoke of earlier definitely helped me use my imagination, but in a different way.  I feel that electronics provide a different medium in which kids can "think outside the box".  My son plays a game on his tablet that requires him to type the name of an object to help him complete a task.  Without an imagination, he wouldn't get very far in that game.  Electronics provide more of a "thought-based" imagination.

I know, I know.... what in the world is a "thought-based" imagination?  First of all, I made it up.  It's not a technical term.  Second, it means that the imagination is engaged by the child reading or thinking about a problem or situation as opposed to an "action-based" imagination (also made up) where a child physically plays with an object, which spurs the imagination on.  This would be like comparing the reading of a book and the child imagining they are in the scene versus picking up a metal car, going "vroom vroom" and imagining they are in a race.

2.) Electronics cause children to read less books.

Well, it depends on the electronics you are referring to.  A Sony Playstation or a Microsoft Xbox definitely will cause children to read less literature.  Having said that, aren't their electronic devices that have the ability to provide books and literature to the user?

Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad, Google Nexus etc. - I could go on.  Almost every modern electronic device has the ability to provide reading material.  And now they have audio books!  Kids don't even have to read anymore, they can just sit back, relax and enjoy the story.  But what about your child's eyesight?  Aren't electronics bad for their little, developing pupils?

Wasn't television bad for us growing up?  Don't most of you reading this article now (if you've made it this far into it) still stare at a computer screen parts of the day?  It's called PARENTING, people!!  Limit your child's time on the device.  Some devices have a "kids mode" where you can set up time allotments so your children can only use them for a set amount of time per day.

3.) Electronics in schools are ruining our childrens education...

Or is it helping it?  For the same reason that hand-writing (cursive) is being removed from curriculum, computers are becoming commonplace in classrooms.  Relevance.  I'm not saying kids don't use or need physical writing instruments.  I'm just stating the fact that kids have less of a reason to use them.

Short story on this talking point:  I was signing my name on a form and my son happened to see me.  "Dad, what is that?", he asked.  "It's my signature, it is used to show that I am responsible for whatever I'm signing."  Insert brief discussion of contracts, bank checks, etc. that require signatures.  Then he asks "Why is it all swirly?  Can't you just write letters like I do?"  I looked at him and said "I'll teach you how to write like this as soon as you learn how to write all of your letters in upper and lower case."

I honestly felt tears welling up in my eyes.

Technology and all that comes with it is not going away, no matter what the talking point is or the topic being discussed.  All we can do is help our children understand where all of this technology came from.  Teach your children how to read an "analog" clock.  Show your class of young students how to perform "long division".  Just because it's not in the "official curriculum" doesn't mean we should hide it from them.

But also have your kids set up an email account they can call their own.  Explain to the young Bill Gates' and Steve Jobs' of the world that computers aren't just for games.  Show young, curious onlookers what the inside of a computer looks like.  Who knows, maybe they can teach you a thing or two about electronics.

-Christopher Reed
Christopher ReedLevel 2 Software Support Engineer

Comments (2)

Most Valuable Expert 2013

Nice work, I gave it a YES vote above.

I'm not sure if you're familiar with the "Teaching Kids to Code" part of the Maker movement, but here's a good starting resource, seems to fit well with your thinking in the article...
Christopher ReedLevel 2 Software Support Engineer


Thank you lherrou!  I was unaware of this movement but good to know.

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