When I was a child, I was very up-to-date on the latest technology. I watched Sesame Street, followed by Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. My home received all the channels available – three local channels, and two PBS stations. I surfed the available programming by going over to the television, taking the pliers off the top of the TV, gripping the pin and twisting (the plastic dial had broken off years before my birth). Telephone calls could have made on our large, black rotary phone. During fifth grade, I played Pong and thought I was really onto something. We got an Atari 400, and I experienced my first educational programming: Lemonade Stand, while was a very early version of Roller Coaster Tycoon. Nowadays, a four-year-old could probably program that game while watching the latest episode of Dora the Explorer and surfing the Internet for accompanying website games to develop his map skills.
Technology can be both helpful and harmful for your children. Let's look at some of the pros and cons of using technology with your kids:
Stimulation and Learning Toys
Computer games and toys that simulate computers can be very helpful for learning. Repetitive games that teach letters, numbers and reading can be great, and the graphics and music accompaning basic facts can help kids learn.
Be careful, however, not to let your child become over-stimulated by video-type toys. Reading books with each other is another great way to develop reading readiness, and playing with puzzles or basic toys is also good. You do not want your child to depend on flashing lights and buzzers in order to learn new skills.
Video and computer games have been linked to vision injury in children, as well as carpal tunnel syndrome. In addition, addiction to these games is a very real consensus. It is extremely important to set time limits on gaming. While your child may develop some killer small motor skills, he could have ruining the nerves in his hands at the same time. Keep an eye on him (and his fingers).
Predators on the Net
The Internet is a remarkable learning tool. Work together with your child to research anything of interest. Most children's programming also has websites with games and activities. There are also interactive sites where children build houses, care for pets, or submit writing.
Close parental supervision is of utmost importance when children are surfing the web. Chat rooms on kids' sites are often prowled by child predators. If your child has an email address, monitor it carefully for spam and sexual content. Kids are naturally curious, but can get into a lot of grown-up trouble quickly if left to their own devices online.
My daughter came home from fourth grade yesterday, begging for a cell phone. Since her teenage brothers both have phones, I assumed she just wanted to act older than her age. Not the case at all – over half her class has cell phones. The kids are talking, and texting at an incredible rate.
Cell phones can be a great communication tool. Kids communicate with each other and share their world via text and by taking and sending photos. The average ten-year-old is hooked into her world in a much bigger way than a few decades ago.
Parental monitoring is important here, too. Make sure your kids are still communicating in the old-fashioned way – face to face. Play dates and in-person interaction should not give way to texting. And texting or chatting should not get in the way of running around outside, riding bikes, reading, or doing homework.
Babies and Technology
Although television programming for babies exists, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of two should not watch television at all. Too much stimuli may inhibit brain development. Also, experts maintain that babies should be bonding and interacting with family and caregivers – not watching a screen.
Some electronic toys emit high-pitched, loud noises that can permanently damage hearing. Test toys before buying.
Integrating your child's learning with technology is a great idea and will give her a head start in the modern cyber-world. Just make sure to monitor activity and stay involved. Maybe if you ask her nicely, she'll show you how to program the universal remote.