When you have a house full of devices and instant access to technology, it can be a really big challenge keeping your child away from them. Young children are so attracted to technology that they become skilled users of smartphones and tablets, often before they learn how to read and write. It’s also common these days for parents to use gadgets to occupy their children.
According to experts, children in India spend an average of 16 hours per week on technology (tv, computer, iPad, phone etc..). Thats a lot!
This seems to be an issue that concerns not only parents but also scientists who are trying to identify if introducing new technologies to young children can support their development or have a negative impact on their learning process.
Here are a few regularly asked questions which might help you in determining if your child is getting too much tech time.
1. Are gadgets bad for your child?
There are a lot of theories flying around about the damage that gadgets have on children’s eyes, brains and overall development but the truth is that since this is the first generation of children growing up with smartphones and tablets, scientists do not have enough data to advise us on the effects that this type of technology in general has on our children’s development.
However what we do know is that replacing physical activity and social interactions with a gadget can be potentially harmful. Research shows that children of two years and younger learn better from using their senses to explore the world around them and interact with other children and adults. Through hands-on activities children can develop sensorimotor and emotional skills. Social play also allows children to use their imagination and problem solving skills therefore if this opportunity is taken off them and replaced with technology, then they could lack development in these areas.
2. Can Children benefit from technology?
Although it’s known that babies and toddlers under two tend to learn more through interactive play and engagement with different materials that support their physical and social development, there is early research that suggests that interactive media such as e-books or other applications can help children develop their vocabulary and improve their reading skills – but only if they are closer to the school age.
The use of mobile devices and in particular online games should support imaginative play instead of trying to use them as a way to keep children busy.
If your child uses a device, you should choose the right application that should be both engaging and open ended. This will encourage children to use their imagination and will have an impact on their learning experience.
If your child uses a gadget here are some tips on how to use them correctly:
• Keep devices on the floor
Research shows that it’s best to put devices on the floor because children tend to crawl and move more compared to when they are seated.
• Choose the appropriate apps
It is important to choose an app that engages your child’s imagination and captures their interest, but also find an app that is suitable for your child’s age and needs.
• Include new technologies but always try to create a balanced schedule
It is ok to expose your children to a wide range of activities including new technologies as they are now part of our lives, but always keep in mind that overuse can have an impact on their behaviour. Try and limit your child’s access to the gadgets by having a schedule. For example: 20 minutes after homework is finished. Or balance it out with say 15 minutes of physical outside activity and 15 mins gadget time. This way your child gets to play with their device but they know it comes along with boundaries and rules. Always try to be on the lookout for signs that they are tired, sleepy or have lost interest and move on to another activity. Take regular breaks and make sure that your child understands why there is a time limit.
• Avoid screen time before bedtime
It is best to not let your child use any gadget or device before bedtime as it can be overstimulating for their brains and can interfere with their sleeping habits.
• Make it a shared experience
Experts recommend that parents should be involved in their child’s use of mobile devices, especially at a young age. You can help your child get more out of a smartphone or tablet by sharing the experience. The best way to include new technologies in your child’s life is by making it an activity for both of you. Become actively involved and monitor what they are doing online. This will also set the standards for the future. By supervising and interacting with them, children will gain the positive aspects of human interaction as well as these of technologies.
So we see that technology has both positive and negative effects on children. To stay upto date with technology of our time, it is important that our children know how to use devices but it is equally as important to make sure they use them within limit. As a parent, it is your responsibility to lay down the rules and at the end of the day, you don’t want to be responsible for hindering your child’s development. Even if you use a lot of technology yourself, it is important to be a role model for your child. Try to spend some quality time with your child everyday without any devices and just communicate with them. By giving them your undivided attention you will help them interact better, establish social skills and empathy as well as bonding and creating long lasting memories.