They’re everywhere. Tablets and smartphones. Tech wearables and gaming handhelds. And, more often than not, these powerful, ubiquitous, and attention-sucking technologies come with a kid attached, riveted to and lost in some mysterious digital world. In fact, when it comes to today’s technologies, it’s usually the kids teaching the adults. But should it really be that way? Should we just free our children to be the digital natives they were born to be or is it time to step in and take charge of their virtual lives? The question is far too complex for a simple yes or no answer. Read on to learn more about some of the most significant benefits and the most serious drawbacks of today’s technology in the lives of our children.
There’s no question about it. Modern technology has changed pretty much every aspect of our lives, from the ways we communicate and build and maintain relationships, to the ways we seek information and entertainment. Technology has also shaped the only world our children have ever known. And a lot of those changes have been decidedly for the good. Gaming technologies, for instance, can be a fantastic way for multiple generations of the same family to connect and have fun, often reversing roles and allowing the kids to play the part of the teacher, coach, and mentor.
Best of all, getting children into technology can provide the perfect gateway for getting them into math and science. Enrolling your kids in an event like a kids’ hackathon not only allows your children to connect with tech professionals, but it can also give them a tantalizing taste of what a career spent following their passions might look like. For a college-bound teenager searching for a sense of direction and purpose, this can make all the difference in the world.
As significant as the benefits of technology can be for our children, there’s no question that there are a host of drawbacks as well. First, though our kids might be incredibly technically skilled, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re technology literate. In fact, studies show that young people are disturbingly trusting of content they find online, with nearly 20% of younger teenagers claiming that any content derived from a Google search is fully reliable. A growing number of children and teens even cite YouTube as their go-to source for news on current events.
But it’s not just the risk of false information that parents need to fear. Our children’s dependence on modern technology threatens to limit their life and learning experiences, as their world shrinks to the size of a digital screen. Studies in cognitive conditioning show that children and teens’ developing brains need extensive physical stimulation—significant interaction with the material world beyond the computer screen. They need to be able to move, to experience, to touch, feel, hear, and taste.
This engagement with the material world also includes unleashing their creative potential. Engagement in the arts, the ability to take the world as it is, imagine alternatives and newness, and then transform that vision into a reality, benefits children cognitively, enhancing their math, reading, and motor skills, for example. But, even more than this, the arts help children build their confidence and ability to express themselves. Best of all, the arts teach children that there truly is life outside of technology!
Finding the right balance between incorporating technology into your children’s lives and knowing when to tear them away from the computer screen isn’t easy, but it can be done. Ditching the tech isn’t really feasible or even desirable in the new millennium. Technology’s benefits are vast, optimizing your child’s learning, building fun and rewarding connections between friends and family, and potentially providing a lucrative, security, and fulfilling career path. Technology, however, isn’t the be-all-end-all of life, and your children need to know how and when to put down the tech and enjoy their lives outside of the digital world. And who knows—you might even get a chance to look at their faces, instead of just the top of their bent heads!