When Charmaine, 32, who says she belongs in the “analog generation”, was at university, she rarely used to call home. “I called my parents only when there was an emergency or month-end when they were supposed to send me money,” the Durbanite says with a laugh, recalling the not-so-distant past.
Today, between texts, Facebook and Instagram interactions, Charmaine and her two sons might “chat” every day. While careful not to be overbearing, she appreciates that technology makes it easier to stay in touch with her children.
What’s the right age?
Even so, parents are still contemplating whether or not to give access to technological devices to their kids so easily. The question in your mind right now is probably, “At what age should I introduce this technology to my kids?”
There is no magic number, but remember that the decision you make now will have a great impact on their future. Paediatrics suggest that children under the age of two have no “screen time,” including access to smartphones and tablets. Educators, though, do say there are benefits to introducing technology to your preschool child. Some schools have even made technology compulsory.
So what are these positive effects of technology on our kids? You may ask…
There are quite a few good effects of technology when used judiciously. Children learn material faster, and experts have outlined five of the most effective outcomes for your children:
1. Better hand-eye coordination
Through engaging apps, children develop their hand-eye coordination further. This occurs when kids visually follow an object on the screen and actively participate in the activity presented. Hand-eye coordination is essential as children begin school when they learn how to use their hands and eyes while writing and drawing in class.
2. Develops creativity
Technology has opened up new platforms for children to create. They can share content via blogs, animations, videos and photos, all of which help empower them to develop their own sense of creativity and identity. In addition to giving kids a new way to learn things like letters, numbers and spelling, tablets and smartphones give children a creative outlet.
3. Better cooperation and teamwork
Numerous apps, software programs and video games promote cooperative aspects of interaction or game-play, and encourage working together with others to achieve common goals. When used wisely, technology can promote greater levels of empathy, understanding and teamwork.
4. Motivates learning
According to research done by PBS Learning Media (a free media-on-demand service), 74% of teachers responded that using classroom technology motivates students to learn. Learners can take greater control of their education because tools like tablets and laptops encourage interactive, hands-on learning.
5. Preparation for the future
One of the top skills on an employer’s wish-list is critical thinking skills. Employers don’t have time to explain how to complete a task they just assigned in so much detail. To be successful in the workplace, kids need to be able to think through the tasks asked of them and come up with the best steps to complete it. Technology provides children with endless possibilities of what can be.¦
In the midst of this positivity we should not forget to keep an eye on our little ones as predators are always waiting to strike.
Remember that the key to safety is prevention. If you take the time to discuss issues like screen-time limits, cyber safety, what’s acceptable content and behaviour before they come up, your kids will be better prepared to use technology and the Internet.
Set clear boundaries
It is also important to inform your children about trolling, online bullying, sexting (when they get older), the sharing of content like photos and possible consequences. Talk through different scenarios so your kids know what to expect and what to do if a situation calls for them to respond.