Should my child be using technology?
Three steps to ensure you are making the right choice
Whether you like it or not, technology is present in your child’s life in a very significant way.
As the last generation of parents not having grown up in a technological world, we tend to think of computers as we think of TV for our children: less is the better.
Our children, on the other hand, are completely immersed in technology. They are developing a different way of learning than our own. As a result, children are becoming more visual in their learning, and exercising different reasoning skills. Compare, for instance, a rotary telephone to today’s cell phone and voicemail technology. The cell phone technology is more complex, yet today’s four year olds can effortlessly navigate through making a call, likely faster than an adult can.
Very little goes on in our daily lives, which is not connected somehow to technology. We use a computer for work and often for home organization and communication. We use cell phones and all their applications: electronic calendars, organizers, e-readers, e-mail, etc. Allowing your child the use of a home computer will teach him a great deal of skills he will need. He will familiarize himself with the keyboard; shortcuts and other functions; learning to type (there are also children’s games designed for that purpose); learning to search for information; and develop hand-eye coordination. When your child is older, he will also be able to use the computer to draw and design, create stories or games, make home videos, and record his daily life (and yours!).
Because some of our schools are still adapting to the advances in technology, they don’t realize children now crave a different type of stimulation. They sometimes have a difficult time learning behind a desk, with less interaction and no opportunity for movement. When they get home, they often turn to videogames or computers to provide the type stimulation they need. Videogames, for instance, provide complex visual stimulation, an opportunity for body movement (which is essential for learning as it transfers data from one brain hemisphere to the other), hand-eye coordination, reasoning, creativity, and quick thinking. Thanks to the internet, technology also connects us to the entire world.
Children also find ways to socialize by using technology. They can connect with their friends when there is no time for a visit, post movies they have created on YouTube, and share animation work, recipes, funny thoughts, or anything they want to teach others. It is their way to offer their thoughts to the world.
As wonderful as this sounds, technology has its risks and can expose children in undesirable ways. As a parent, here are three steps to safely becoming technology-friendly:
1 Educate yourself as a parent
What technology is your child interested in using? If it is the computer, what will it be used for? If videogames, what types of videogames is your child interested in? If you are unsure of the content and value, offer to play a few rounds with them before you make your decision. Ask your child, and get specific information. Your child will appreciate your interest and be more understanding of your decision if you can justify it.
2 Set your limits and expectations
Remember that you are the parent, and as such, you are responsible for the safety and well-being of your child. You may find that you do not oppose to your child playing videogames, so long as they are not violent. You should set expectations together with your child with respect to the amount of time your child is allowed to play. You may approve the use of a computer at your home, but not approve your child joining facebook. You might agree your child should have a cell phone, but limit its use to emergencies or calling home. Decide who will pay if any expenses have to be incurred, and establish upfront the consequences of not abiding by the rules you set. If using the computer, it is always safer to keep it in the family room instead of your child’s bedroom.
3 Stay connected
Make sure your child is benefiting from the use of technology. Monitor from time to time to ensure that it is used appropriately. Before purchasing a game, check to see if it is age appropriate, and that you are comfortable with the content. If you have young children, chose games that are more educational, such as the leap pad from leap frog. Play it with your children once or twice to understand the content. Technology is constantly changing, and what you decided upon yesterday, may need to change tomorrow. Stay in tune, and even look for opportunities to invite your child to use technology for enriching opportunities, such as making films, designing programs or models, or researching the world around them.
Choosing the right technology is much like choosing your child’s cereal: The most popular ones are the worst, but if you look hard enough and work together, you will find a healthy option that you and your child both agree on.
Natacha V. Beim is a writer, speaker, teacher, and the founder or Core Education & Fine Arts Junior Kindergarten schools (www.cefa.ca You can reach her at email@example.com