Thursday, 25 August 2011

Getting the balance right: Kids and Technology

My most recent HuffPost blog entry was all about children and the ever-present role of technology in their lives these days which I have some strong feelings about. A self-confessed girly geek, I come from a tech background and absolutely love all the advances that have been made over the past ten to fifteen years. I am therefore happy to embrace all that modern technology can offer me and my family. Regular readers of my blog and those who follow me on twitter will know that Ben is a little whizz when it comes to using the latest gadgets such as my iPhone and iPad and I have many apps installed for him to play with which we regularly review. It is my belief that he has learnt a lot from these and the evidence of it can be seen every day. I use these apps as a fun way to teach Ben colours, numbers, shapes, letters and so on, this can only be a good thing surely?

Yesterday we went to the park, on the way there Ben pointed to each and every car along the way and told me what colour it was. We sang our version of the Wheels on the Bus as we walked, substituting the wheels for animal names and he made all the correct noises for each animal, making me laugh with his funny sort impressions of the 'pigs on the bus'. He counted out the number of steps as he climbed up to the slide. He named the letters on a poster outside the cafe in the park and was especially excited by the letter B as he knows his name starts with it. While he also learns these things from the books we read and other more traditional forms of play, I believe the apps he uses are a powerful tool for teaching him in a fun easy and effective way.

So where does the role of technology in kids lives go wrong? When does it become detrimental and a problem? This happens when it is the only thing they do, when they are left to sit playing on games consoles for hours on end without balancing it with other activities such as riding a bike, getting involved in sport, reading a book and so on. It is my opinion that we as parents need to encourage children to get the most out of life by getting involved with all these other activities. Last nights episode of Jo Frost: Extreme Parental Guidance had a good example of this with a ten year old boy who was so obsessed with playing a fantasy computer game called World of Warcraft his mother even gave him his breakfast, lunch and dinner sitting at the computer so he could keep playing it. It got so bad the child had a fit in a cafe as a result of his obsession and when asked by the ambulance man if he had been playing computer games he admitted he had been for twelve hours the previous day. Not even this deterred his mother from letting him play on the computer the next day. She admitted she used technology to babysit her son while she dealt with her other two younger children. Thankfully as a result of Jo's help he managed to wean himself off the computer and start enjoying more family activities and days out.

This is an extreme example of the bad effects of technology on kids but the reason it happened is clear, the child was addicted and his obsession was perpetuated by his mother. It is a warning to parents to encourage their children to take part in a broad range of activities, that way they can get the benefits of the wonderful things technology can offer along with enjoying all that life has to offer. Just as Socrates said "everything in moderation".

Playing on the iPad


Lisa | said...

Totally agree with you. The iPad is a huge hit with our toddler, and given the choice, he'd play with it for half the day already. I can only imagine what it will be like when he's older. We enjoy using the iPad with him, and have plenty of apps for him, but we limit his use of it. Some days he doesn't use it at all, and other days, we might use it a few times a day with him if he is unwell, or if the weather is awful outside! 

Mummy's Space said...

Exactly - it's all about using it in moderation. That way kids can get the benefits of it without getting addicted. Technology is a great learning tool if used correctly.

Post a Comment