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Technology is spreading at a very high rate. Computers have become essential at work and at home. With almost every home having a computing device, they became available to the majority of children. Studies have shown that technology can have a variety of effects on young children, both positive and negative. The type of effect is often based on whether the toddlers are monitored during the use of technology. This paper will examine how the use of technology needs to be monitored because it is spreading rapidly, has a use in education, but when left unmonitored it can be harmful.
The spread of technology over the last seven years have escalated greatly. A study by Common Sense Media found that in 2011 only 38% of children ages 0 to 8 have ever used a mobile computing devices such as a smartphone or a tablet. In 2013, this percentile grew to 72%. The numbers are explained by the increased access to mobile devices by children due to an increase in affordability and older models being passed down to children as presents.
The time that children are spending on other technology has also lowered in that time with even popular devices like television receiving a smaller portion of attention. These numbers were recorded in 2013, but in the following years, it is likely that these numbers have only escalated. In most cases, toddlers have access to at least one technological device that can have both positive and negative effects on the development of the child.
By extrapolating the increase in mobile technology use and availability, it is possible that in the future television will slowly become less relevant than tablets and smartphones (“Zero to Eight,” 2013). The interactive elements are very engaging for toddlers and the unlimited nature of the video on demand services such as YouTube and Netflix, and game programs can be addictive to the children who have not yet developed a skill of self-control.
Researchers have examined the way with which technology can be used as a powerful educational tool. Children in the first two years of their life should not have direct access to technology. Studies show that their cognitive abilities best develop through human interaction and play activities with parents, siblings and other children. Subsequently, they may be introduced to educational programs on mobile devices under strict supervision from parents.
The educational process can be simultaneously used as a bonding tool between the child and parents as they guide the child through the educational program (“Healthy digital media use,” 2017). The teaching process needs to be interactive to truly engage the child and parents should encourage them to solve the tasks themselves. Animations, sounds, and interactions should not be too distracting from the main topic of education, however (Radesky, Schumacher, & Zuckerman, 2015).
On the other hand, unmonitored access to media and technology can lead to a number of negative outcomes for toddlers. The simplicity of the touchscreen interface allows children to learn how to operate those devices even at a very young age. This was not the case with older technology such as personal computers and laptops due to the number of buttons and input devices that they used. This makes unmonitored access to mobile technology a likely situation in any family.
Children are able to become obsessed with entertainment applications and use them instead of interacting with others. Even when parents only give access to educational programs, they are not guaranteed to be effective because they lack a basis in the established curriculum and often provide only the most basic information. A study states that when a child increases their use of media, they start to sleep irregularly, reduce their physical activity and have detrimental effects on the cognitive development of children.
Parents have also shown to often use media devices as a tool to distract children from distress which is an effective technique for changing the point of attention of the child (Radesky et al., 2015). A different study, however, states that such use can lead to the improper social-emotional development of children (Council on Communication and Media, 2016). These and other negative outcomes provide a valid argument for strict monitoring of toddlers’ technology use.
Issues that involve young children often require additional attention. Technology has become one such issue because over the last seven years it has spread into every home and into the hands of children. Its use can be highly beneficial for children and even create a deeper bond between them and their parents. The interactive elements of the program are often more engaging to children than standard educational means, and if the application is well-designed, the children are likely to retain relevant information and skills during young age.
However, the unmonitored use of technology can lead to a great number of unwanted issues. Children lose their sleep, become less active, and can start replacing human interaction with technology use. Concerned parents should make sure that their children do not use technology excessively if they want to gain its benefits.
Council on Communication and Media. (2016). Media and Young Minds. Pediatrics, 138(5), 1–7. Web.
Radesky, J. S., Schumacher, J., & Zuckerman, B. (2015). Mobile and Interactive Media Use by Young Children: The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown. Pediatrics, 135(1), 1–3. Web.
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Zero to eight: Children’s media use in America 2013 (2013). Web.