Take a moment to think back to when you were a kid. Chances are you spent countless hours outside playing capture the flag and getting lost in the woods. You went to a friend’s house and made up games, choreographed dances, or found a way to play football without putting a hole in the wall.
There’s a pretty good chance you begged your parents for a little more TV too. While you were holed up in your friend’s bedroom it was quite possibly because you were calling the cute boy in history class, hoping he would eventually say that he liked you too. Or maybe ESPN Sunday Night NFL on Sega was what passed the time for you and your buddies. You were limited to Nintendo’s Game Boy at home and it just wasn’t getting the job done anymore.
There’s a very good chance that your childhood included technology, you just didn’t think of it as such. Perhaps not to the extent that your child’s does, and in different forms, but it did. It was all still new. It was exciting. It was exactly what you wanted to be doing immediately following a long day at school. Homework could wait.
Today, instead of tuning into PBS because they’re the only channel playing something age-appropriate, kids can flip on Netflix and choose whatever interests them most. They can scroll through pages of apps that make them focus on problem-solving. The phone calls on a landline that parents remember are now texts and direct messages through social media that happen on the walk or bus ride home. Video games are still cool, and so much more realistic than older generations could ever imagine as a kid.
Think about it this way: technology is the latest generational complaint. There hasn’t been a single generation to go through an entire life cycle in the world of technology as we know it.
Wading slowly through unfamiliar water isn’t new, but limiting something for the sake of the unknown is like not trying blue ice cream because it’s blue. Following guidelines based on the quality of technology versus the quantity is a great place to start with kids.
Educational shows, video games, and apps are plentiful. Toddlers can begin practicing their writing skills by using their finger to trace letters and numbers. YouTube helps teach colors as the kids on the screen open Easter eggs with little toys inside. Video games develop fine motor skills and provide a bit of therapeutic stress relief.
Back when the general public was starting to use computers for personal use, researchers noted that 63 percent of kids interacted with others during computer play, while only 7 percent interacted with peers during puzzle play. Sometimes technology is used as a catalyst for communication that may not happen in typical social situations. From the start, there has been evidence to counter the claims that technology limits things like social interaction.
Consider technology use as an investment in learning. Parents can make computer use a collaborative time to discuss some of the things kids are seeing on screens. Help improve school readiness in younger kids by watching and listening to a counting song, then using fingers to offer a different way of learning. Older kids can use technology to immerse themselves in political, environmental, and economical content, and parents can use the opportunity to discuss differing perspectives, ideas on how kids can get involved, and ways to equip kids for the future.
The world as we know it is a different place. “It’s a small world after all,” isn’t just a cute song, it’s reality. Technology has connected us to the furthest reaches of the earth and offered new life into disciplines that were once thought to be for the smarty pants of the world. Technology is shaping the future and parents should allow it to help shape their children.