Who is to blame for kids’ lack of control when it comes to technology?
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Are toddlers really becoming addicted to technology? There’s certainly a lot of media hype to suggest that they are. See here Kid’s tech tantrum and here Toddler internet addiction.

Footage such as this is often aimed at showing the evils of technology and the myriad ways digital devices engender bad behaviour among children. The footage often shows young children demanding their device from their parents, and throwing loud tantrums when they don’t get it!

When watching footage like this, viewers are often put in a position where they naturally try to apportion blame for such behaviour. In this case, the obvious targets are the technology and even the parents.

As an expert in children, technology and learning, I question the purpose of content such as this, regardless of whether its on prime time TV, headlining a newspapers, or a new addition to a parenting blog. In recent years society has been inundated with scare tactics around children’s increasing use of technology. To date, media articles have blamed technology for various ills in society such as obesity, insomnia, violence, aggression, and language development issues. Unfortunately these scare tactics often succeed, because they cause a sense of guilt among adults and perpetuate a sense of loss of control.

However this type of thinking doesn’t make sense. It suggests that by removing technology from their lives, all children will be fit rather than overweight, and mental health problems such as aggression and depression subsequently diminishing. Children’s health and happiness are essential goals, but magic wand thinking is not going to get us there. Children may be young, but this does not mean their lives are simple. There are multiple factors that contribute to such complex health issues.

The other obvious target of blame when watching footage such as this are the parents themselves, and their seeming lack of ability to control their children’s use of technology. In my recent study of families’ uses of technology in the home, many families and children have multiple devices at their fingertips. In fact this study found many toddlers actually own more than one device!

Blaming parents for indulging their children is easy, yet many parents correctly recognise that technology is an essential part of modern life. Many professions now require the use of multiple devices over the course of a working day. In addition, much of our social lives have migrated online, requiring us to make use of technology to stay in touch with our friends. Even government support agencies require individuals go online to make a claim or submit an enquiry. Not allowing children to use devices hampers their ability to engage with the modern world. Research shows that educationally, technology offers many benefits for children such as supporting them to work with more complex ideas at an earlier age, supporting skills in collaboration and problem solving, accelerating learning in the first year of school helping children with learning challenges, and enhancing mathematics learning. School curricula around the word rely on technology for this very reason. If children’s access to technology is restricted, long-term implications for their opportunities to learn may be the ultimate result.

For many parents, it seems we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. What’s worse- our children growing addicted to their devices, or living a technology free lifestyle and falling behind at school and with their peer groups?

My advice is to shift attention away from the blame game to instead consider our children’s world as it truly is, to focus on facts and reality. Technology has changed our lives, sometimes for the better and sometimes for worse. Children’s love for technology is obvious, and mirrors the devotion many adults have for their devices. Try to take an adult’s mobile off them and see how they react! It’s simply a reality that we can potentially all grow over-reliant on our new gadgets, particularly as technology becomes more embedded in all aspects of our life, if we let it happen. Stopping such extreme practice requires being aware of this possible trajectory, considering how it may manifest, and the possible impact it would have on our own life as well as that of our family.

Balance is the key. We must understand how technology can be properly managed so that the main activities in the home are not family members isolated in their own technological cocoon. New age parenting requires a critical awareness of what it means to be a technology user, fully aware of the value these devices add to our lives, and what can happy when things turn ugly. Media scare tactics can certainly help inform us of the risks technology can pose to our relationships, yet they shouldn’t be our only source of information. Instead of being guided by fear, we must look for reliable discussions informed by research. Information from a wide range of sources will help parents better understand the key issues, to gain more control over our lives and develop meaningful approaches to home life that will take the best of technology, but avoid the worst.

My article was originally published in The Conversation  Read here I WANT MY iPAD!

 

 

 

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