I found myself asking this question the other night while reading a book with my 2 year old. All was going well, he was engaged and laughing enjoying the moment and I must say I was feeling like mother of the year. That is, until I asked him to turn the page. What did my child do? He very carefully slid his finger from right to left straight across the book like he had done many times on the I-PAD. Yep! He became quite perplexed when the pictures didn’t change (funny that) and I felt my mother of the year title slowly slipping away. You see to be honest with you, this was not the first time I had worried that my children had been spending too much time with all things technological. Take a year ago when reading a book with my youngest daughter. You see we were reading one of those books where you have a lead in phrase such as “A lion’s mane is …..” and the child is meant to fill in the blanks. What did my child say when I read the phrase and pointed to the ……; Yep she responded with “Loading”. Hmmm, probably not quite the response I was looking for. And I found myself asking the same question again, when my eldest child wanted to know some information about a certain grown up topic that I was not prepared to give her, her response “Fine then I’ll just google it!” (Hmmm better start investing in one of those parental lock thingies.) You see, children of this generation are practically born holding a Smart Phone, well maybe that’s stretching the truth but they certainly appear on social media within a few minutes of their birth. Fast forward a couple of years and most two year olds can navigate an I-Pad better than their parents (I’m speaking from experience here) and go into any classroom and learning takes place with a whole realm of different technological devices; Computers; I-Pads; Interactive whiteboards. But is there such a thing as too much technology?
As a Speech Pathologist working with young children, I am often asked this very question. And to be honest my response is always the same. As long as there is a significant amount of technology free time through the day where your child is exploring and developing their play, language and social interaction skills then I think we are doing pretty okay. Computers; I-Pads; I-phones; Television, you will generally find at least one of these in every home today and the evolution of technology has opened up a whole new medium for children’s learning. Having worked with a wide range of children with varying abilities, I have seen first-hand how technology can actually help build connections with children who otherwise have displayed little interest in the traditional modes of learning. And I have found that once these connections are made and the children are having success then they become more willing to attempt tasks or activities that don’t involve technology further developing their skills. There are a range of wonderful educational DVD’s; computer programmes and now apps which have been created specifically for children to enhance their learning. And if we as parents play or watch these programmes alongside our children we can further enhance the benefits. The evolution of technology has also opened up a whole new world for children with little or no spoken language with some excellent apps available providing them with augmentative and alternative communication systems. I have had great success with using the choice board creator app and Proloquo2Go app with a number of children who have little spoken language. And that’s just two. There are many others available and I have no doubt more and more will become available in the future.
So to answer my question, I definitely think technology is more friend than foe. Not only for the many benefits I have seen as a professional working with children but let’s face it since the introduction of smart phones many more parents (including myself) get to have coffee in peace. And while at times we may feel guilty about the amount of time our child may be spending immersed in all things google and you tube we need to take comfort in knowing that we are not alone. I mean take my friend for instance. At her daughter’s kinder the children themselves have to sign in every morning. How does her daughter sign her name??