Children and Technology: A Good Mix?

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Wednesday, December 11th, 2013
Community, Features
It’s that time of year again and the Christmas bargains are in full swing, especially in the recent week with ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday.’ One market that has advanced in recent years is that of technological goodies from laptops, to smart-phones to tablets. In the past this market was largely concentrated on reaching the adult market and those in their late teens at most. However, recently the technological market, whether intentionally or not, has began to appeal to children and toddlers. It almost seems as though today it is a social norm to see a child in a pram holding a phone and swiping away at a touch screen, knowing exactly how to operate an adult’s means of communication and entertainment. Should children be allowed access to such gadgets? Do we realise exactly what we’re handing children or is it just a means of keeping them quiet? I myself am guilty of giving my younger siblings my smart-phone to keep them occupied when I’m trying to watch I’m a Celebrity! However, are we doing more damage than we realise when handing our tots our technology? Recent studies would suggest so as they have found that toddlers using such high levels of technology on a regular basis can affect the rate of their brain development. This is worrying, particularly so in regards to a recent ITV Tonight programme on the subject which found 70% of youngsters are now using, and are comfortable with using, iPhones, tablets and laptops before they even start school. The extent to which this technology takeover has occurred is placed in my mind by an analogy a teacher once told my class. When acting as a sub in a p7 class the teacher in question asked the 11 year olds to use their calculators and noticed every member of the class held their calculator as though they were texting on a phone. This sounds preposterous to me; as someone still in school myself I can remember being in first year only seven years ago when maybe people didn’t own a mobile phone and there would maybe only be one family pc in their home. This contrasts dramatically to nowadays; over the last 3-4 years I have observed first years coming to school with iPhones and tablets. Maybe I sound old before my time, but this is the reality we’re faced with today. I can’t help but wonder what my 5, 3 and 1 year old siblings will be taking with them when they begin secondary school. Should this be such a scary thought? Furthermore, children using their parent’s technological gadgets can be a costly experience. Stories of children wracking up parent’s iTunes bill have become more common; a family acquaintance’s 5 year old recently spent over £500 on virtual extras on games on his father’s iPad. Some may argue that children should not be aware of passwords on such devices; however should manufacturers be doing more to make such technology more child friendly? Also is there an ethical code that game makers should adhere to and not specifically target children through their games? Conversely, there are educational benefits to children using such technology with games available to help with reading and mathematic skills. These often equip children with basic literacy and numeracy skills even before school. On the other hand, children are often lacking the basic skills required for social interaction, often entering into a private bubble when using technology with limited knowledge of what’s happening around them. Thus, the overall question is whether allowing children to use such technologies is a help or hindrance? Arguably, the decision is up to each individual household and parent but do the costs outweigh the benefits in letting children in on the technology market?
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