It’s OK To Let Your Kids Use Tech, Here’s Why…
Chances are you’ve seen a recent story about how horrible “screen time” is for your children, or how tablets and smartphones are going to ruin your children. Better to just take every electronic device you own and throw it on a bonfire…
Leave the DVD player in the minivan, though.
I’ve read the articles. I’ve seen the studies they cite. I’ve talked about this with my spouse. In general, we think there’s a lot of hype and not a whole lot of reason for real alarm if your children to spend time each day on a tablet, computer, or smart phone.
Here’s my reasoning.
The Science Around Children and Screens Needs to Grow Up
Many of the studies cited by the fear-based anti-screen articles are old, and even the newer ones tend to focus on passive screen time: not games for children on computers, but passively watching TV or other media play out on screens of all sizes. And that’s a completely different kind of engagement than an active interaction with their favorite educational app.
I’m certainly not defending plopping your child in front of Caillou for six hours every day. I don’t think putting them in a room for six hours with a set of hardwood blocks and no human interaction would be good, either. But if science wants to tell us that all screen time is worse than any other play activity, they’re going to need to look at everything modern screens can do—and at the huge variety of interactive games they provide.
My kids color with crayons—real, physical, demonstrably non-toxic (though indigestible…) crayons. They also use a picture coloring app on their tablets. Technology hasn’t replaced the old school cool of the giant box of Crayolas in the slightest. If you’re seriously concerned about their fine motor skills, there are plenty of educational apps that will have your children engaged and improving their fine motor skills even on a tablet.
The 9 studies discussed in this article show how video games have improved eye site, brain function (specifically brain functions related to fine motor skills), relieved pain, and aided in improving reading skills for children struggling with dyslexia. There’s even a video game that is effectively counseling teens struggling with depression and getting better results than meeting in the traditional counseling setting.
Children are Great at Self-Regulating Their Gaming
You just saw the words “children” and “self-regulate” together, I know, but before you write me off as completely bonkers hear me out.
A recent article I read suggested that “over exposure to technology” lead to ADHD, problems self regulating and a whole slew of other items. In fact, they even link to this study when refering to a childs “decreased ability to self-regulate“… however, if you read that study it clearly states that “children who watched 9 minutes of a fast-paced cartoon had impairment in their executive function compared with children who were assigned a drawing task and those who watched educational television.”
I was really upset to see that they were still referring to studies that were simply measuring the results of watching tv and not focusing on the results of children after 9 minutes of interactive technology (like educational ipad apps). Moving passed that, the study wasn’t saying “ban technology” it was simply showing that we should be monitoring how technology was used so that the children are getting the most out of it.
If your child is throwing tantrums because you took away the ipad… it is not a child self-regulation issue. It’s a parenting and setting boundaries and expectations issue. My children get regular use of technology. When the expectation is set in advance, and their time is up, they simply turn off the electronic and go on to the next activity.
Have you ever seen a teachers classroom during centers? The boundaries and behavior expectations are set in advance, the children go to their centers, they rotate through the centers and when centers are over, they go on to the next activity. Technology for children should be used in the same manor – technology is an activity we do in a day – not something we do every waking minute.
Our Children Will Be Dealing With Screens Their Entire Lives
Love ’em or hate ’em, screens are here to stay. We use screens to checkout at the grocery store, to buy movie tickets and rent DVDs, to print airline boarding passes, and once in awhile to get a bit of work done. They even have screens to help you select and mix your favorite soda when you skip the drive thru and go for the interior dining experience at your local burger joint (yes, we eat fast food once in awhile too).
You can debate the merits of screens all you want, but they aren’t going anywhere. As much as the world/media want you to think your children won’t grow into useful, productive adults if they’re too engaged with screens, I think the exact opposite is true. Encourage your children to embrace technology. In fact, brainstorm with them ways that technology is helping the world, and they’ll use that brilliant imaginitive, unlimited mind to come up with some pretty amazing solutions to life’s problems.
Like this teenager, at 14 years old he started creating robotic hands with rubber tubing, legos and fishing wire. How did he piece these together? Yeah… the internet.
You can see how he successfully used Kickstarter to launch a business to make affordable prosthetics. Now, at 19 years old, he’s already landed a job at NASA.
One Last Point – What Was Your First Job?
If you’re like me, and grew up in the 80’s, 90’s, or even the early 2000’s, then your first job was probably a fast food employee, grocery bagger, or maybe your were lucky enough to get the ticket taker at the local movies. Those aren’t going to be available when our children are old enough to get their first job. Right now those positions are being replaced with electronics. If an electronic replacement hasn’t taken over yet, then the position will most likely be filled with the less tech savvy person.
My son will be 16 and ready for his first “official” job in four short years (tear)and may still have the opportunity to get a first job similar to what I had. But my daughter on the other hand… she’s got 12 years before she’s 16. I’m certain that in the next decade, children her age will have entry level web design jobs, social media community management jobs, or even programming jobs as their “first jobs.”
Banning screentime is only hindering her ability to be successful in her future life. I’m choosing to embrace technology and encourage her computer literacy equally as much as I’m building her reading and math literacy. As with all things in life, there needs to be balance.
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