In the past few years, technology has transformed the way children and adults alike approach the learning experience. Children are being encouraged to learn to code using toys like Microsoft’s ultra-accessible Project Torino, apps like Duolingo are fostering language learning, and many schools are using individually paced computer programs as a standard part of curriculum.
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The flipside of this boom in educational technology, however, is that an increasing number of children are tech dependent. Some early education teachers feel young children no longer know how to play or interact with peers and the amount of time children spend outside or participating in group activities is on the decline. This raises the question, how much technology is too much technology when it comes to children?
Opinions vary, but at the end of the day, the answer seems to hinge more on how technology is used than on how much it is used. Here are 3 things to consider about children’s technology use.
Building Relationships With Tech
One way that technology use can be very healthy for young children is if it’s used to foster relationships, but what does that look like? According to a position paper from the Fred Rogers Center, technology benefits a child when it helps them understand themselves, collaborate with peers and adults, and understand the world around them. These are all things that educational programs and internet access enable in new and exciting ways.
A Break From A Tech-Heavy World
Though there are many ways in which technology is enriching children’s relationship with the world, something many people find thought provoking is the response of tech professionals to a tech-laden world. In Silicon Valley, the very people who designed you iPad are send their kids to no-tech Waldorf schools and limiting technology use at home
Waldorf schools are similar to Montessori schools, placing a high emphasis on natural child development. Waldorf schools, however, tend to place a heavier emphasis on the arts, while Montessori schools are child-led, allowing young learners to set the pace, learn from their peers, and discover the world around them in a way that fosters lifelong learning. These educational methods are gaining in popularity as technology becomes more pervasive in the rest of our world.
Gamification And Motivation
While it’s possible to teach children to be self-motivated using the Montessori method or other educational philosophies, technology is also a powerful force in building motivation, especially through gamification. Gamification is the practice of making educational tools that resemble play instead of traditional learning. For kids who have grown up affixed to an iPad, many have been immersed in gamified-learning since their toddler years. Carrying this over into school can help keep them on track and engaged.
Even as pediatricians begin to revamp their views on children and screen time – even they realize that it’s unrealistic to ban it entirely for kids under age 2 – views on the role of screens in educational and daily life still vary widely. Each parent has the right to choose how their children use technology at home, but without opting for a private education environment, few will be able to avoid it in the classroom in this day and age.