Hand a smartphone or tablet to a toddler, chances are they’ll figure out how to open it and make some in-app purchases in a matter of seconds. The technological boom means that children are becoming computer experts at a very young age. Elementary school kids have classes on computers, and many of them have been using their computers and tablets at home well before they started school. As kids are learning from a very young age about technology, they’re making huge strides as they grow in being prepared for schooling, future careers, innovation, and more. Your kids may even be able to help you with your online coursework at WGU!
However, with all this constant immersion in technology, there are some very real concerns about how this tech impacts childhood development. We are wandering into unknown territory as generations past have never had this same kind of constant technological immersion. But experts are starting to see what technology at this level can do to children and their future. Many of our WGU students are parents, and we want to help you
Kids have access to screens all around them. Many homes have multiple television sets, computers, tablets, and phones for children to find and play with. And some children even have access to their own tablet and phone, starting at a young age. Research shows that the average 8- to 10-year-old spends almost 8 hours a day with a variety of media, and older children and teenagers spend around 11 hours per day with media. That time adds up, and young people are spending more time with technology than they do in school.
Children and teenagers around the country aren’t cutting down their media consumption either. Some teenagers say they send thousands of text messages each month, stay up until 2 AM scrolling social media, and spend hours each day playing video games. And this has continued to get more intense over time, as more apps and options arise to distract kids.
While many people see the negative impact of such technology usage, there also pros. The real question is what can parents and teachers do to harness technology in useful ways, without letting kids become slaves to it and the negative effects it can have on their lives.
Learn about the negative effects of technology on young children and teenagers.
Lower attention span. Teachers, parents, and students themselves find that technology can have a direct impact on attention spans. The immediacy of technological interactions make waiting harder for children. With technology, they aren’t forced to wait. They can have their TV show immediately, they don’t get bored because they always have something to entertain them. Technology moves fast, instant responses and instant gratification are impacting attention spans for young children and teenagers alike.
Increased risk and lack of privacy. Teenagers and children have grown up in a technological world, and the idea of privacy is somewhat foreign to them. Cybersecurity is a huge element of tech today, but it isn’t always perfect. Hackers and criminals can utilize technology to steal identities and harass children. Technology has created an increase of theft, privacy issues, harassment, and more. The IT industry is in need of cybersecurity professionals who can help make technology more safe for children, so consider getting started on your degree today.
Risk of depression. Teenagers and children who report more time using media are more likely to also report mental health issues. Depression is a key issue that is correlated with more media use. This has increased suicide rates and has lead to more youth needing mental health interventions like medicine and counseling. Experts believe time spent on social media or using technology can directly be tied to increased depression.
Obesity. Children who spend more time inside on their phones or tablets don’t spend as much time running and playing outside. They establish habits of technology use that doesn’t involve exercise. This can lead to increased obesity rates in children and young adults.
Falling grades. Many students today can see their grades take a hit when they spend more time with technology. Increasing technology usage means less time spent on homework, and the kind of developmental changes technology can bring can make students struggle with homework like reading and writing.
Bullying. As technology flourishes, so does bullying. Children and teens are using technology and social media to bully other kids, without having to face them. Often called cyberbullying, this trend is increasing and getting more popular with even younger students.
Social interaction issues. With more time spent on technology, younger children are having issues with face-to-face social interactions. Many seem to prefer to text or talk on social media as opposed to talking to each other in-person. Even when children spend time together, they may spend more time texting or on their phones than actually being together.
While there are many negative impacts that can be connected to technology use, there are many positive impacts as well.
Helping them learn. There are many educational elements of technology that can help children learn. From TV programming to apps on a smartphone or tablet, there are many things that children can be exposed to that can help develop their mind and teach them new things.
Classroom tool. Many teachers have started using technology in classrooms to help students learn. Technology helps teachers reach different kinds of learners, reinforce and expand on concepts, and motivate students in new ways. As more teachers embrace technology, new kinds of learning can take place in classrooms, and more students can be reached in ways that they relate with.
Preparing for future tech careers. As technology continues to grow and flourish, there will be more demand for professionals ready to take on technology careers. When children start getting excited about technology and the potential it offers them from a young age, they’re more prepared for their future and the possibilities it offers. Children can start getting technological skills early that they’ll need in the future. If you’re a young student who has the technological background you need for an IT career, consider an IT degree to build your credentials and get you started on the path.
Improved multitasking. Studies show that using technology helps young children learn how to multitask more effectively. While multitasking never allows you to fully focus on one area, students can learn how to listen and type to take notes, or other multitasking activities that can help them succeed in their future.
Improved visual-spatial development. Spatial development can be greatly improved when technology like video games is used to help train young students and children. Practicing visual-spatial skills with video games can be a great way to improve abilities. Visual spatial skills are needed in a variety of things, like map reading, puzzles, and more.
Improved problem solving and decision making. Technology often presents children with problems, and helps them learn how to make decisions and solve those problems. Games and apps on tablets or smartphones can help give children the practice they need to find success down the road. When students wisely use technology they can reap huge rewards.
Parents and adults can help children get the benefits of technology with less of the negative effects. Parents can start by ensuring children under two don’t use screens. They can also play along with children to include face-to-face interactions with technology, and make sure that tech doesn’t interfere for opportunities to play. Parents should also work to set appropriate boundaries including time limits, and model good smartphone use. Cybersecurity software and systems can help ensure that kids stay safe while using technology.
Parents and teachers can watch for quality apps that promote vocabulary, math, literacy, and science. Adults can help make sure kids learn about computer science and IT as part of technology use to give them opportunities for a bright tech future.