The impact of technology on behavior
How many parents remember growing up hearing, “too much television will rot your brain?” While too much of anything can be bad for you, the real concern that parents should have regarding their child’s use of technology is how it can impact their behaviour.
Technology is an ever present part of our daily lives and the amount of time we spend interacting with our personal technology devices is only increasing as we feel the need to stay connected. And as a result, it’s nearly impossible to prevent our children from also desiring these interactions; considering how much time we all spend staring into these colorfully illuminated screens.
Instead, it’s our job as parents to find the RIGHT ways for our little guys and gals to interact with technology. And to do this, we need to understand the ways technology is impacting our children, and how to encourage the right use of technology so it can have a positive effect on their behavior and development, as opposed to a negative one.
Technology, when used correctly, can actually have a very positive effect on a child’s development. Studies have found that our ability to identify key information buried within a cluster of characters and visual stimuli (advertisements) are greater. In addition, regular interfaces with technology can lead to improved hand-eye coordination, multi-tasking, and reaction time. But when your child’s interactions with technology are not properly controlled, there can be negative effects on their ability to think critically, to their attention and imagination, and their privacy and safety.
Not surprisingly, studies have shown that the increase of technology has decreased the proportion of daily reading. In addition, it’s been argued that because many blocks of text you encounter on digital devices are written in 140 characters or less, children are not challenged to think critically, or to expand their thoughts.
To counteract this, and encourage critical thinking, be sure to set aside time every day for reading where no electronics are present. Critical thinking can be developed through conversation expansion; where you look to build on conversations by referencing past experiences or things you read in their favorite book.
Attention & imagination
On a similar note, attention is developed by its environment. With the various technology available, children are often more distracted and less likely to focus on something else when it is present. Also, when there is a great deal of visual stimuli and a lack of reading stories, this can impact a child’s development of imagination. To counteract this, it is important that children have the opportunity to explore old-fashioned imaginative play and to let their imaginations run wild in storybooks.
Privacy & safety
As advances in technology lead to increasing levels of connectedness, we must consider the effects that social media can have on our child’s mental outlook, as well as their privacy and safety. It is important to know what activities your children are exploring online as well as create an open relationship where your child can discuss concerning behavior they come across. Children in these settings can often be exposed to various degrees of bullying, which can have lasting impacts on a child’s social and emotional development.
While social media can be utilized as a way to strengthen existing relationships, it is important to give them the opportunity to practice conversational and social skills without technology. Make sure you give your child plenty of opportunity to practice in social settings by modeling these conversational skills yourself.
The most important thing a parent can do is to be informed and involved. Be aware of what your child is using technology for, develop and open relationship to discuss any concerns, create “unplugged” time and be a strong role model yourself. We must make sure that social media does not dictate the expectations and rules for our children.
Technology is undoubtedly useful in our daily lives, but both parents and children alike need to understand that technology should be used as a tool, and should not substitute real world interactions. To see ideas on how technology can be used to support early childhood development, please read my other article How to use Technology to Support Development.