No matter how much we try sheltering our children from all things screen and technology, it always seems to find them. Even schools have embraced it as a teaching modality and use it on a daily basis. It has allowed for better communication with children and adults who have speech difficulties, intellectual and/or developmental delays and other challenges that prevent effective communication.
The truth of the matter is, technology is everywhere, and it seems to really appeal to kids of all ages. Studies have shown that over 80% of children ages 2-6 use screens every day to play, read, and learn.
The impact of technology depends on the child’s age and cognitive ability. For instance, children under two do not benefit from technology as they are not able to interpret what it is, they are seeing or hearing. As children get older, they are more likely to learn from digital media; that is, with their parents’ guidance. Learning will take place if the content is age-appropriate and engaging.
So, what’s the issue then?
Research tells us that children with long exposures to digital media have a tendency to develop behavioural problems, challenges with emotional regulation and attention deficits. Several studies have found notable delays in social development, executive functioning (ability to plan, organize and impulse control), and verbal skill development.
Can there be a middle ground? Absolutely. There are several ways we can embrace technology and support learning:
- Avoid apps with multiple interactive features such as pop-ups, hidden links, and hotspots
- Support learning from apps by interacting with your child and making links to real-life situations
- Limit screen time to 1-2 hours per day, based on the child’s age
- Research and choose age-appropriate apps that offer problem-solving and creative approaches.
At the end of the day, kids learn by example
If the parents have a healthy relationship with technology, chances are, so will the kids. Although some of us are more reliant on it than others (for multiple reasons), making screen-free time with each other will lead to positive relationship building, mindful interactions and good old brain development.
Technology is not going anywhere – it is here to stay and continue evolving. As with anything in life, technology in moderation is not an issue. We need to help our children (and ourselves) find a balance so we can capitalize on the benefits and reduce the negative effects of technology in child and adolescent development.