By: Megan Stepniewski, Youth Programming Associate
30% of children are obese.
30% developmentally delayed.
14.3% diagnosed with mental health disorders.
20-30% of children experience learning difficulties.
And 1 in 11 now have technology addictions.
All aforementioned problems are associated with overuse of technology.
After reading these statistics and seeing parenting and psychology articles spouting all over the place about the dangers of technology, it is no wonder that many parents feel like banishing technology from their house all together! It becomes harder still when you take into account that despite wanting to abstain from technology, it is everywhere and eventually your child will need to learn how to properly utilize technology to function in school and eventually in the workplace.
But some of us love technology! The great storytelling and complex critical thinking in gaming, the complete access to information about anything and everything, being able to communicate with friends and loved ones at any time in any place, and the opportunities for creativity, all stem from the wonderful use of technology in our lives. It’s no wonder that we would want to share these exuberant experiences with our children!
So what is a parent to do? Use Aristotle’s Golden Mean.
Aristotle was definitely not a moron when compiling his Golden Mean. Essentially, it boils down to this: the right course of action falls in between two extremes — one of excess and one of deficiency. Here we have our two extremes: let our kids have free rein on any and all technology (our excess), or completely vanquish technology from our children’s lives altogether (our deficiency).
This is what I kept in mind after diving through a plethora of academic articles, scholarly journals and research papers to find a decent road for parents to take. Here is what I found:
- For the purpose of linguistic, physical, mental, emotional and relational development, all children under the age of 2 should not be passively exposed to screens and/or touch screen technologies.
- Children need their parents, and in the absence of a connected parent, children will attach to devices.
- During the earliest years, infants and toddlers interact primarily with people. Their interactions with toys are usually in the context of human interaction as well. They need to freely explore, manipulate and test everything in the environment to properly develop.
- Technology creates wonderful bonding experiences where parent and child can enjoy gaming, reading and exploring together.
- Enjoyable and engaging shared experiences that optimize the potential for children’s learning and development can support children’s relationships both with adults and their peers.
- Effective technology tools connect on-screen and off-screen activities with an emphasis on co-viewing and co-participation between adults and children and children and their peers.
For children with special needs, technology has proven to have many potential benefits. Technology can be a tool to augment sensory input or reduce distractions. It can provide support for cognitive processing or enhancing memory and recall.
Ultimately, we need to keep in mind that technology is a tool — just like a book, a crayon, a microwave, or a car. Way back when, parents and psychologists held the belief that when books became more accessible to children, it would harm and damage their proper development. Now we see children’s books as a wonderful growth tool and is encouraged for proper development. We may not have all the scientific research on how technology affects children yet, but technology is here to stay and so it is best that we learn to adapt it into our lives while continuing to proceed with caution.
Don’t stress. You are an AWESOME PARENT! YOU — CAN — DO — IT!
If you liked this blog post, then check out these articles and books about toddlers and technology! (It’s where I got most of my information from.)
Remember proceed with caution, because a lot of them use scare tactics — obviously to get more readers, but you have Aristotle on your side, so what is there to fear?
Virtual Child: The Terrifying Truth About What Technology is Doing to Children by Cris A. Rowan