Are Our Children Overusing Technology?

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?

Published on: August 30, 2013
About the Author
Photo of Alison Lee

Alison traded in launch parties, product launches, international press junkets and world travel, for sippy cups and diapers, breastfeeding and potty training. Alison has been actively over-sharing stories of motherhood on her blog, Writing, Wishing since 2011.

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Recent Comments

Its pretty bull this article. I’m a 8th grader with a perfect 4.0 and i hardly ever go outside. technology helps kids like it did me. and wake up does this look like your in the sixties again?

My husband and I don’t have cable and the tv is safely out of the living room. We can’t and shouldn’t prevent him from having technology, but certainly in his toddler years it’s far from necessary.

Absolutely right, Sharon!

I worry most about television. My kids don’t even like to read. How can that be possible? That’s all I did. But I have some plans in place to tempt them with books more often.

That’s great, Jennie!

Awesome post! I agree! The goal of all parents in this generation is finding the right balance!

Agreed! And for my family, we do find the key to balance is making real-world, tactile experiences a priority. The cutting-edge digital experiences have no trouble keeping up.

As my children get older, I think about this more and more. I want them to have confidence with electronics and experience some of the games and apps that they enjoy with their friends – but I don’t want that to be all they do. We have limits on screen time (including TV) and encourage old-fashioned play – I think striving for balance is all we can do as parents.

It’s just something we should keep in mind as parents, that’s for sure.

I agree – I think the key is balance. I don’t see anything wrong with the kids using the various educational apps, and I set the kids up in front of the ipad with one of their favorite shows so I can shower in peace. But I also love being outside with them on the playground or at the pool, throwing the ball around in the backyard and digging in the flowerbeds.

My kids have even grown bored of using the ipad for Facetime, much to their grandparent’s dismay. I still think it’s incredible.

Great article, Alison!

I think the novelty these days, lie in the old school activities we’re so familiar with, rather than the other way round! :)

Thank you for reading, Jennifer.

Hah! I KNOW. My boys think that every kind of screen should be swipe screen. :)

It is indeed! It’s especially true when they’re older. We have to guide them into realizing that the computer/ Internet is not the be all and end all. Human time is needed too.

I understand. I think we all do that, it’s an easy fall back.

I would make the exception too, for events such as long road trips (and plane trips), Ilene! Interacting with people – YES! Including each other.

Nora lives for the 20 minutes here and there when I let her “read” on her storybook apps…but then loses her mind with joy when she gets to play with an entire drawer full of bendy straws. It’s two very different parts of the brain- but you’re right, it needs to be a balance. (Now, if only she weren’t so afraid of getting dirty…)

I love that about your girls! Equally comfortable with technology and old school things like straws. :)

You are absolutely right – the key is balance (isn’t it like that with almost everything?).

I worry about the overuse of technology as well, but it is a different world now. When I grew up I mostly played in the woods – unsupervised – got dirty and my parents did not know where I was… I also remember watching lots of TV, though. Pippi Longstocking was my favourite!

Nowadays, the schools work with ipads, smartboards and web-based learning. It’s a new way of learning and I think it gets the kids ready to be successful in today’s world (both of them were for example signed up for online German Grade 11 over the summer and completed it. Even though they are native speakers it’s not as easy as you may think, they’ve forgotten lots in the last 5 years… but now my 11 year-old son already has 8 High School credits, thanks to technology).

We do make sure that there is lots of “getting dirty” and creative play, though. It’s not hard. My husband is a plumber and my son wants to come to work with him all the time. I let them help when I paint a room and they helped when we renovated the basement earlier this year. There is also no technology when we go camping. They actually choose a family walk over TV. They like to whittle and build forts in the backyard – and then make a YouTube video about it ;)

A great article to finish off the series, Alison!

You’re right. Technology is absolutely part of life these days, especially in education. We just need to make it work for us, without overdoing it.

So glad that your kids have a balance of both technology and tradition, Kerstin.

Thanks so much for your support this week!