We live in a world of iPads, flat screen televisions, smart phones, GPS navigation systems, electric cars, the Internet. Our children are growing up in the fast-moving digital age.
Now, toddlers can learn to count, learn to say the ABCs, learn to draw, learn their first words and recognize animal sounds, all on the iPad. At the touch of a screen, you can download all kinds of applications for your child. It is amazing, and a little scary. They are growing up learning to use a smart phone before they can even talk. Children’s television programs are abundant, from educational to entertaining.
There is much dialogue about the extent of technology our children are immersed in, whether voluntarily, as permitted by their parents, or involuntarily, where they are surrounded by these things when they go to school, to a mall, or even, their friends’ homes.
When my son was 17.5 months old, he could operate the television remote control, and activate my smart phone by swiping the lock key from left to right with his finger. Similarly, he knew how to use the iPad’s touchscreen with his ever handy finger – swiping the screen, pressing on the relevant applications, even pressing the Home button to exit an application. I was convinced then that before long, he would be programming his own software.
That may be an exaggeration, but truly, I worry that I’m allowing my children to be too involved in the digital world. I don’t even want to think about them being old enough to get on the computer and start using the Internet. That’s another world out there, and probably, another post in the future about how we manage that. In the same breath, I do not want to deny them of any of the technology that surrounds them. It is inevitable that as they get older, they will be doing more of television watching, iPad playing and smart phone usage.
I believe that the key to this, to get the balance of these activities right, is that children should also immerse themselves with “old-fashioned” activities.
Remember when we were toddlers? When we were kids? When we were teenagers? How did we learn?
We played in the sandbox to learn about textures. We learned to stack blocks. We learned to sort shapes with shape sorter toys. We played with water, using cups and other vessels to learn about volume. We learned to open and close lids on boxes, to remove and replace objects in those boxes. We learned to draw with crayons on paper. We learned to read with picture books. We played with doll houses, train sets, jigsaw puzzles, board games. We played on swings, see saws and merry-go-rounds.
The key here is balance.
We want them to learn how to navigate the digital world. We also want the boys to play with traditional toys. We let them watch some television, but we also make sure they go outside and play on swings, slides, monkey bars, and get some fresh air. We let them play with the piano application on the iPad, but we also ensure they play with the actual toy piano, one that they can touch, feel the keys, and how the keys give under the light pressure of their fingers.
When they are much older, we will eventually allow some time on a computer. However, we will also want them to learn how to use their hands, like put together a simple piece of furniture, or fix their bicycle. We want them to literally, get their hands dirty.
As parents, we need to be the ones who strike the right balance for our children. Good luck to you. And me!
Are you concerned about the amount of technology your children are involved in? How do you ensure the right balance of television, computer games and the Internet, with more traditional means of play and entertainment?