Thoughtful Thursday: Technology and Kids

ImageI have decided that I would like my Thursday posts to be more interactive and to inspire some discussion.  Every week I will post about something to “think about” and I would love to have people weigh in, share their own thoughts and give their opinions.  As parents and teachers, we are ultimately all working toward the same thing by trying to mold our children into productive members of society…and we all know there is a multitude of ways of going about doing so.  As many kids as there are out there, so too, are there that many parenting and teaching styles, approaches to behaviour and ways to discipline.  Let’s share them!

I would like to start by saying that 100% of the content of these posts is my own opinion, rarely “educated” in the formal sense of the term, and always non judgemental.  As a parent and an early childhood educator my number one resource is my own successes and failures and the willingness to learn from them.

The topic I have chosen today, Technology and Kids, is always a big one in my mind.  I have an on-going struggle, always wondering about the “right” balance, the “appropriate” amount of time spent with a screen…and ALWAYS, how do other parents moderate these issues.  My kids are newly 2 and 4, though to watch them with the apple devices as well as the family PC, you would think they were both teenagers.  I often have a lot of guilt surrounding how much one or both of them play with the iPad, watch tv and putz on the computer.  Let me be clear: ALL content is completely and tightly controlled and supervised and there is absolutely nothing happening that I do not have 100% control of.  But again, let me be clear: I am always on the hunt for new and better apps and games, and quality programming that will keep my kids occupied at various points during the day.

Most of the apps on my iPad are educational, and my 4 year old has access to these every time he plays the iPad; my 2 year old only really likes the ones I have downloaded for specific reasons: appealing for colour, music or concepts being learned.  However, I also have games such as Angry Birds, Cut the Rope and Where’s My Water (that I originally downloaded for myself) that my son enjoys even more.  We were on a program that he had to earn time to play these games (once per week), and he was allowed a certain amount of the educational apps every day.  My two year old gets half an hour of play in the morning and again in the evening, and my four year old gets about 1.5 hours after lunch.  As for the TV, it goes on when we get up, mostly as background noise while the kids play with their toys and eat their breakfast, and comes back on late afternoon when I am trying to make dinner.  Rarely do either of them sit still and watch it, but it is certainly a welcome distraction while I need time to myself to do the dreaded dinner thing.  The computer gets used by the older child while I shower, and the rest of the day I am at everyone’s disposal for whatever other activities the day may hold.

I have so many trains of thoughts on this, and they often all crash into each other and I am so torn that I find it hard to be consistent and enforce any kind of hard and fast RULES.  In a way it is embarrassing to me that my two year old knows how to unlock the screen, navigate the boxes and start a photo slide show on the iPad.  I feel like it shows I am a “bad” parent, obviously allowing her much too time with it.  I am dismayed that my four year old knows how to go into the app store and choose a game, come within the password of purchasing it, and whine for days when I turn him down.  My initial reaction and thought to myself is that if they know how to do THAT, they MUST be missing out on so much other KID STUFF.

However.  Then I think about the world we live in.  The talk of touch-screen bathroom mirrors, the smart boards in the classroom, every high school student having their own laptop….and I can usually talk myself down.  These kids will NEED to know how to use technology.  Let’s face it: the world is a different place than it was 20, 10, hell even 2 years ago.  It is a struggle for me, an educated adult, to keep up with the latest and greatest technology, but that won’t be something to be laughed about for the up and coming generations.  They don’t know what they’re doing…they’re gonna have to figure it out or get completely left behind.  Jobs, houses, cars…all are becoming so technology driven that this is simply a way of life.  At 2 and 4 are they too young to take part?

Please do not get me wrong.  My kids get PLENTY of other stimulation.  I am a SAHM and we play outside, we ‘do’ art, we make music, we practice math, we read tons of books and we build forts.  We go to the zoo, LOVE the science centre and frequent the river park.  They are bright, thinking individuals who are learning to play together, clean up their messes, and navigate their world…even in “spite” of all the technology around them.  I sometimes also think to myself: what is the difference, REALLY, for all you doubters out there, between my kids playing a game of memory on the iPad, or on the table with cards?  One of our very favourite apps involves choosing characters, creating a scene and acting out a short movie.  Hello?? Is this not play, too?  Can we not use an ed app to learn sight words, navigate a connect-the-dots or read a book?

I am a hard core early childhood PEEP.  I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, the teacher hasn’t left me, even in all those loooooong hours after naps and before dinner.  I have firm beliefs about the need for quality play, imagination stimulation, independent and shared experiences…I do know what I’m talking about…at least I used to think so.

I would love to hear from other parents and teachers on this topic.  What are YOUR restrictions, allowances and grievances?  What do you tell yourself to make everything ok or not?  What are your kids learning specifically from the use of technology? How do you think it will help or hinder them?  Can you really send kids out into this world without a good understanding of the good and bad of technology?  What teaching can surround this issue??

Hope this gives you something to think about, if you don’t already…every day…all the time…like I do.  Fill me in!!

Happy Thursday!!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Miss Night (@happycampergirl)
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 14:41:16

    As a teacher, I think that half the battle with tech is using it mindfully, being aware of the pros and cons, being reflective about how and when and why we put technology in kids’ hands. From the sounds of this post, you are doing all of these things. The world isn’t a black and white place, so it’s really hard to have black and white rules about anything.


  2. Karen
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 16:06:49

    Pretty sure my kids don’t know how to use a library to find a book to find the solution to a problem but they know how to use the internet to find a youtube video that shows them the solution. Technology and gadgets are here to stay.


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