Due Is this a good thing, or is it

Due to
modern technology, such as computers, game consoles, tablets and
smartphones, today’s world for children is very different than it was
for their parents. Is this a good thing, or is it bad? While there
are good and legitimate arguments on each side as to whether the use
of technology by children is positive or negative, most should
conclude that when used in moderation and with supervision,
technology’s effect on young children is one we should ultimately be
thankful for because it has opened a new, and maybe even untapped,
horizen of knowledge. By summarizing a few points of the negative
impact versus the the positive impact debate, and an explanation of
using technology in moderation with supervision, most should be able
to come to agreement that the effect is ultimately good.
Parents always
want what is best for their children’s physical, mental, social, and
emotional development, but most struggle with knowing which way to
lean as far as modern day toys and products are concerned. There have
been a lot of studies done by various groups that explore the pros
and cons of children using technology at very young ages, but since
the topic’s history is only one generation, there is simply not
enough evidence to make any concrete determinations.

No one truly
knows whether technology is more of a help or mostly a hindrance to
the development and well being of children. There can only
speculation at this time.
It would be
easy to believe that today’s children are inherently born with a
technology gene. According to a survey done on parents of young
children by ASHA (American
Speech-Language-Hearing Association,) 68% of 2-year-olds
use tablets, 59% use smartphones, and 44% use video game consoles. It
seems to come naturally to them. Marc Prensky, an internationally
known speaker on education, came up with the term “digital
natives,” which reflects the belief in the young
children/technology bond. Children who have been around technology
ever since they arrived in the world and aren’t intimidated by using
it are the digital natives. Anyone who does not fit that description
are “digital immigrants” (Prensky). This group had to learn to
use and adapt to it later in life. It doesn’t come naturally to them
and taking it on can be quite intimidating at first.
It
isn’t uncommon to hear parents, somewhat jokingly, say their toddlers
know more about navigating their smartphones than they do themselves.
They are proud that their babies are tech savvy, as they should be.
Many parents expect that their children will be using technologies
when they start school, so they believe the children would be behind
from the start if they do not have some technological skills ahead of
time. Some parents lack confidence in their own technological
abilities and want to make sure that their children are better
prepared. Even financially disadvantaged parents want to be sure that
their children have opportunities to learn, so they let them spend a
lot of time at public libraries or with friends or relatives who have
computers at home. Many try to acquire used computers.

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On
the flip side, some parents feel that it is totally unnecessary for
their young children to have early knowledge of using electronics.
They argue that “there is no benefit in an early start because

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technologies
are changing so rapidly. Anything learned when they are 4 will be out
of date within a few short years” (Plowman). Also, they feel that
if they encourage their child to be familiar with technology, the
child might become too absorbed in it and neglect other learning
opportunities. “Technology, it is thought, has particularly adverse
effects on preschoolers because they are still developing cognitively
and socially, leading to advice that young children should not be
exposed to computers or television because this will be detrimental
both at the time and later in life” (Plowman).

As long as
technology is used appropriately, interactions with technology can
provide excellent learning opportunities. For example, learning how
to control different types of technologies, getting them to operate
a certain way, and having opportunities for personal input to get a
personalized response, is great operational learning. Interactions
with technologies can help children to better comprehend the ways of
the different cultures of the world. It can create an early yearning
to learn more and to be persistent about it. This will help with
self-confidence as digital media navigation becomes less
intimidating. With the gain of self-esteem, there will be a wider
range of pursuits to tackle as the young child grows into an older
child, and then from a teenager into adulthood.

If misused or
overused, however, there can be several negative effects on a
child’s development and quality of life. Many homes are saturated
with leisure technologies, which can lead to too much television
viewing and hours upon hours of playing console games. “24%
of 2-year olds use technology at the dinner table-a prime time for
the kind of interaction that fosters strong communication
development. By age 8, that percentage nearly doubles (45%.) Also,
by age 6, 44% of kids would rather play a game on a technology
device than read a book or be read to. By age 8, a majority would
prefer that technology is present when spending time with a family
member or friend” (New
ASHA Survey of U.S. Parents: Significant Percentages Report That
Very Young Children Are Using Technology).
“The
most rapid period of brain development takes place before age 3,”
says Judith L. Page, PhD, 2015 ASHA president. She adds, “The
primary way young children learn is through verbal communication
that technology simply cannot duplicate. Despite advances in
technology, it remains critical that children have sufficient
opportunities to develop their vocabulary and communication skills
by listening, talking, reading, and interacting with their parents
and others, for which there is no

4
substitute.”
Many parents are exhausted after working
all day. It can be tempting to use electronics as a “babysitter,”
even when it is against parents’ better judgment.
Technology
over-usage can cause children to be more sedentary. Instead of being
active with physical play, a child might sit for long periods of
time using a tablet, a smart phone, a computer, or watching
television. This can set the child up for a long lasting struggle
with obesity that can eventually come from the lack of exercise.
Another issue is Vitamin D. This vitamin comes from sunshine and is
important to our immune system. Since the sun shining on the screens
of devices makes one unable to see the screen well, it is easy to
conclude that the indoors option will usually win. Thus, too much
use of technology can indirectly cause a deficiency in vitamin D.

Besides so much
time spent inactively due to electronics, excessive time spent in
solitude might cause a lack in social skills and emotional
development. It can be more difficult to develop friendships, and
there can likely be a lack of engagement with the family. Developing
communication skills is critical in order to do well in school and in
life in general, so it makes one wonder what will happen to so many
who shut themselves off to necessary socialization. What will it do
to their self-worth? There have been confusing messages about how to
use media from the experts themselves. “For many years, parents and
teachers have heard warnings from the American Academy of Pediatrics
and other health-related organizations that emphasize the dangers of
children consuming media at the expense of social interaction. An
image of a child looking at a screen causes concern, making some say
things like, ‘Those poor kids. They are so isolated and addicted,
their brains are turning to mush.’ Some parents,

5
often those in
middle- to upper-income demographics, brag that they have never
‘exposed’ their children to a screen” (Levine and Guernsey).
After weighing
out the positives and the negatives of the use of electronics by
young children, most would likely conclude that moderation is the
key. Balance the use of technology with traditional activity.
Children’s early experiences with various technologies can complement
their learning, especially when they are supported and monitored by
adults. With parents helping their children when things are
difficult, encouraging and giving praise for achievements and helping
them manage their emotions when they get frustrated, playing and
learning with technology will be no different from the playing and
learning they’re achieving from other kinds of activities. New
research has been done and is getting noticed. The result is less
confusing and more helpful messaging to families. “In October 2015,
for example, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced that it
would be making changes in the next year to its recommendations on
how children use screen time. Representatives from the academy have
called for new guidance that is less about avoiding media at all
costs and more about guiding parents and teachers to use it to help
children learn” (Levine and Guernsey).
A few years
ago, a study was conducted on two Philadelphia libraries, one located
in an affluent community and the other in an economically distressed
part of the city. For nearly a decade, Susan B. Neuman and Donna C.
Celano, along with their research assistants, sat in the two
libraries, carefully observing how parents and children used the
books and computers within. Even though one of the libraries was in a
low-income area, it provided the same level of offerings of books and
computers, due to the generosity of a local funder who wanted to
level the playing field and give disadvantaged families the same
learning opportunities as more well-off Philadelphians. Even though
the same offerings existed, the disparities did not go away. The
presence of computers did not automatically give

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adults and their
children a leg up. In the poor community, Neuman and Celano saw
example after example of adults struggling to fill out forms or work
with new software after waiting in line for their allotted 30 minutes
at a computer station. They saw children looking at picture books in
short bursts, with few adults around them to guide them through
stories and ask them questions. They saw kids playing with computer
games that took them off on tangents that had little to do with
reading stories or learning new skills, or that were not designed to
help them learn, leading to the pounding of keyboards, frustration,
and eventually giving up.

Meanwhile,
children at the other library were using computers with an adult by
their side, one who had the technological expertise to guide them to
appropriate games and early literacy software, not to mention the
time to ask them questions about what they were playing with. Not
only were these children benefiting from conversation and an
introduction to new skills, they were absorbing information about how
computers work and how to use them to gain knowledge and solve
problems (Levine and Guernsey).

While there are very good explanations from those who are advocates
of technology usage at an early age, as well as reasonable arguments
against it, now it should be more evident that when used in
moderation, technology’s effect on young children is significantly
more good than bad, because usage with supervision allows interaction
and bonding, gives opportunities for teachable moments, and enhances
knowledge by being much broader in its capabilities.

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