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Let's talk about technology

Submitted by on Wed 22/02/17 15:28

Technology. Most of us agree that it can be a useful tool, but after that it’s impossible to reach a consensus.

When the topic comes up, it always arouses mixed emotions - often dividing people along generational lines.
Even research is divided on this. Some researchers say that information technology provides great opportunities for learning, and using technology in general prepares young people for a digital future. Others say that technology is disruptive and distracting for a child’s overall wellbeing.
There is no doubt that technology has made our modern life very different than our parents’ lives and even our own childhoods. We now rely heavily on communication, information, and transportation technology to make our lives more efficient. A good proportion of the population now uses technology for:

  • personal banking
  • social networking
  • entertainment
  • communication
  • making travel bookings
  • buying household goods and fashion items

Technology is not going anywhere. It’s here to stay. Whether we are natives in this digital landscape or still adjusting to some degree or other, this is a reality for the future.
Yet there are the uncomfortable facts about the technology takeover that we need to find a resolution for.
Rapidly advancing technology seems to have had a deep impact on the developing child, with an increase in physical, psychological and behaviour disorders that professionals are now linking to an overuse of technology in young children. Childhood obesity, diabetes, ADHD, autism, developmental delays, speech problems, learning difficulties, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders are also associated with an overexposure in childhood to technology.
Evidence also suggests that an over reliance on devices results in disconnection between parents and children. Rather than hugging, playing, rough housing, and talking with children, television, video games, and the latest iPads and mobile phone devices can create chasms between parents and children.
Researchers at the Queensland University of Technology have found that not all screen time is negative but that it needs to be time limited and divided into at least two different types:

  1. Passive screen time in which children are not moving and are passively exposed to technology
  2. Active screen time where children are either cognitively or physically engaged with the technology

The question is not about whether devices should be used by children but rather, what is their appropriate use? Active screen time (including educational TV) was found to improve a child's cognitive and physical development and their readiness for school because it facilitates social interaction and improved word knowledge and verbal fluency. 
Social researchers also debunked some of the misinformation surrounding technology, such as the belief that video games have no educational value, that technology is the only reason that children are inactive, that electronic media impedes the development of emerging literacy skills, and that technology weakens children’s social skills and saps their creativity.
There are two key questions to consider when providing your child with access to technology:

  1. What is my child plugging into? (What sort of digital environment are they escaping into?) AND
  2. What is my child tuning out? (What aspects of the real world are they ignoring?)

For optimum child development, the television programs, handheld devices and video games you choose for your child should be active, appropriate for their age and stage of development, never harmful, and balanced with other offscreen activities.
Below is a guide for each age group:

BECOME INFORMED regarding the negative effects of technology on your child's development and learn to identify the early signs of attention problems, aggression, sleepiness, withdrawal, and persistent desire to use devices.
DISCONNECT YOURSELF from your own patterns of technology use, as technology-addicted children are likely to live in high technology-use households. Parents need to determine how much technology is too much, set limits, and then model balancing technology use with other activities. Create a weekly schedule with designated time for technology balanced with time for healthy activity.
RECONNECT as a family by creating special time with your children.  Consider banning technology from meals, in the car, before bedtime and when on holiday.
EXPLORE ALTERNATIVES to technology as a family.  Buy a book of games, have ‘story night’, wrestle, make up a play, build a fort from cushions, or plan family cooking night.
ENCOURAGE MOVEMENT, TOUCH, HUMAN CONNECTION AND NATURE. Children need ‘rough and tumble’ play two to three hours per day. They need time connecting with their parents, teachers and other children in outdoor environments.
“It is not what technology does to us, it is what we do to technology. Get smart with technology, choose wisely and use it in a way that benefits both you and those around you.” [

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