Parent, Teacher, Author
Technology is ubiquitous in our world today. Toddlers are handed cell phones or tablets designed especially for them, tweens have their own cell phones before they even enter middle school, and adolescents may have a tablet, smart phone and laptop, which they use simultaneously. It’s important for parents, teachers, and other caregivers to think about both the benefits and challenges of technology. That allows us to be critical consumers of technology rather than passive receipts who may be overwhelmed.
Technology can increase the opportunities for learning, with search engines opening up doors to information at the touch of a screen. It can also be used to build skills. Teens today can download a mobile app that helps them study everything from foreign languages to drivers education. Children can watch YouTube videos that help them learn how to conduct science experiments or decorate their room. Technology can also be an avenue to building new relationships. Social networks allow us to connect with new people who have similar interests, and move the whole “pen pal” idea into the new millennium with the power to connect with and learn from people from different places.
Technology can also present challenges. If children are engaged with technology rather than face to face interactions, they may miss out on developing important social skills such as learning how to take cues from another person’s facial expressions or body language. Their distraction factor may also interfere with developing meaningful face to face relationships, and with being able to focus on the important work of learning. One teen who I know recently spent a month without using a video streaming software to watch movies. She had previously used it quite often everyday, and she wanted to see how her life seemed different without the constant access to digital entertainment. When asked what she learned, she reported, “I have so much more free time than I thought I did. I’ve been able to focus on practicing the musical instrument I play and really improved. I’ve also been reading a lot more books, which I love, but had kind of forgotten about with all of my video watching.”
Just by giving up this one use of technology, the adolescent found that she had been losing touch with friends, skipping opportunities to learn and grow, and even losing out on some of her favorite leisure pursuits. There are definitely pros and cons to children using technology, but if caring adults help them to use it well and set limits, it can be a positive thing.
In an upcoming post, I’ll explore the role that technology plays in identity development for children and teens.