Technology has become a necessity in everyday life and children are so much affected by it. In schools we see desktops, laptops, notebooks, and cell phones used as learning tools, enhancements to teaching methods and, therefore, as catalysts of student learning in general. Some studies found that technology is effective in stimulating the developing of interaction between teachers and students and increasing in-class participation through more involved engagement and active learning.
Although the case of technology-based education can be convincing, another body of work expresses scepticism about its value. This scepticism is born out by a non-comparability or lack of studies, that observe different methods of computer-assisted education. If one study shows remarkable benefit while another highlights lack of benefit and negative effects on children, is it caused by computer or curriculum?
This research will try to fill the gap in the lack of these studies. The aim is to prove or disprove whether computers hamper children’s growth and their social skills and is it true that they are negatively affected by continuous and unabated use of computers at home and school. The study will be guided by the hypothesis that children’s social skills are affected by heavy device usage. During the investigation of different parameters, we will answer the question: Does heavy use of smart devices impede children’s developing social skills?
In the age of technology humans tend to move and act, or even speak without the aid of technology. The fact it has made us more effective in our daily interactions with the world is still questionable. One known fact is without technology the world would be a different place to live in.
The impact of technology on children’s growth and social development has been one of the leading topics of debate. This has grown into worries about the negative impact of technology, that children’s important functions for growth are under threat. One of these is social skills. Children need social skills training to make them socially competent. But social competence is affected by many factors that must be given appropriate attention and assessment (Spence, 2003).
Questions have to be answered in the proposed research with empirical studies are: Is technology hampering children’s academic achievements? Are those gadgets helping or affecting their learning processes? Is media socializing affecting their cognitive functions? How can the bad effects of media technology be controlled?
Research findings from Pew Research Center (Zickuhr, 2011) state that ninety-five percent of Americans who are “millenials” (aged 18-35 years old) own cell phones, whereas 70% and 74% of the same class respectively own laptop computers and iPod/MP3 players.
This means cell phone is the most popular gadget among many Americans of different ages. Students own cell phones, tablets, ebooks and ereaders which they use at school or during social interaction (Zickur, 2011). Does ownership and use of these various devices affect developmental skills in children?
Children and youth have more access and more knowledge about technology and particularly gadgets than adults do. Social media alone is “populated” by children and youth. According to media consultant Donald Roberts of Stanford University, the use of different kinds of media by children is very prevalent (Brooks-Gunn & Donahue, 2008).
This refers to “media multi-tasking,” an example is when a child uses the computer to send email and watches television at the same time. Television has not been replaced as media source, because children are just adding another medium to their viewing experience. Others use cell phone to access the Internet. Researchers must find a new way to investigate how children are exposed to media multi-tasking so some certain policies can be formulated.
The huge concern from parents is the effect on children’s cognitive function and academic success at school. Some studies have found that children exposed to computers are in danger of increased risk of recurring anxiety, visual tension, overweight, and other health hazards due to a sedentary lifestyle.
Experts assert that increased time spent using computers along with time when children watch television and video games may exacerbate developmental delays and children’s use of sensory abilities and movement. This may also lead to language and learning problems (Dertouzos, n.d.).
Childhood is an important stage in development. It has to be nurtured with time and the natural needs of normal growth. The complication of computers forces children’s young mind to work like adult’s one because these machines were made with the sophistication of adult minds and bodies.
This gives way to stress and mental injury and may hamper a child’s healthy development. Long keyboard use may strain some reflexes and tender parts of the hands and body. The emphasis on computers as a tool for learning can make schools staff and family members confused about delivering what children actually need. It can even worsen existing mental problem (Couse & Chen, 2010).
The good effects of technology
According to Clements (1999), it is not true that children’s social interactions are affected by computers. In fact, the findings of research state that children spend more time interacting with friends and classmates on the computer than engaging other non-productive activities such as answering puzzles (Muller & Perlmutter as cited in Clements, 1999).
Computers help enhance learning and provide ease and comfort for teachers in the teaching process. Watching a child at work on a computer can tell how the child thinks (Weir et al. as cited in Clements, 1999). An example is the Logo programming, using which children work along with peers. This process nurtures cooperation and improves children’s social interaction.
Clements (1999) argues that current research on young children and the use of technology no longer tackles to determine whether technology is appropriate for their development, because research has shown that children are confident and comfortable with the use of software, various tools and computer adaptations.
The use of computer keyboard does not give them difficulties, in fact, they are proud of their mastery of the keyboard use. Children with disabilities are given comfort and sense of control in the use of software. However, there is also the question of the digital division – children of low-income groups have little or no access to computers and software applicable to their needs.
Clements (1999) adds that computers help children in their learning processes. What researchers should focus on is how technology can be used appropriately, the methods and processes of learning, and how to include the marginalized groups in learning how to use computers.
Computers have also been used in other areas of learning, in improving the traditional methods of teaching, in drawing information about the different subjects in class, and in reaching out to the world or to other students from different universities (Clements, 1999).
Many teachers complain of the vast challenges in using technology in classroom activities (Keengwe & Onchwari, 2009). Moreover, there have been large investments in providing educational technology (Bebell, Russell, & O’Dwyer, 2004).
The purpose perhaps is to enhance the traditional method of teaching and make technology the main instrument of learning. But policy makers should give more emphasis first on conducting studies to demonstrate the advantages (or ill effects) of educational technology, rather than pouring in more funds for this method.
Studies by Plowman, McPake and Stephen (2010) found that parents do not view computers as a threat to their children’s development. The authors’ study was triggered by the debate and prevalent talks that childern is negatively affected by technology, particularly their cognitive, emotional and social functions. Use of screen-based media dominates children’s daily lives and has affected their physical and mental health.
Plowman et al. cited the actions of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Public Education, which set guidelines for appropriate exposure of children to media. Pediatricians should help parents in setting up “electronic media-free environments” for children or restrict the use of too many electronic systems (television or videos) in the baby’s room and help provide materials to enhance interest in reading.
Plowman and colleagues (2010) conducted a survey among families of preschool children in the rural areas of central Scotland. The survey garnered 346 responses from the respondents. The study was based on a sociocultural approach which states that family practices should be studied using social and cultural aspects. In exploring parents’ views about technology, the authors were guided by “parental ethnotheories” or the concept of culture as it affects families.
Ethnotheories anchor the parents’ actual experiences of technology at home, school and work. The study used observation on how the parents reacted to technology and how the children were affected by it. The evidence for the study included the audit report, the interviews of parents, and personal talk with children.
The survey investigated details of the demographic data which showed a comparison of the different socioeconomic classes. This was needed to demonstrate whether the families could afford to buy computers, television or mobile phones, and the classification included “low technology” or “high technology” families. The study noted, however, that by 2007 all families, except one, could buy a personal computer with internet amenities (Plowman et al., 2010).
The researchers conducted multiple visits to the families and collected data which earned them a considerable grasp of family cultures and allowed them to check on the findings. The findings based on the parents’ responses indicates that as the children grew and become more “addicted” to technology, parents tried to regulate them.
They started to supervise and limit the use of computers and video games. The children’s behaviour in the study did not give any problem to the parents. However, most of the families were agreeable to the statement that the children were “missing out on more important activities” when they were busy with their computers and playing video games (Plowman et al., 2010, p. 8).
Further empirical studies by Wang and Kinzie (2009) support the use of technology to enhance learning. Educational technology can help in the child’s full cognitive development. They cited the National Educational Technology Standards which backed the use of technology in dealing with world problems and decisions.
Research Methodology/Proposed methods section
The research will use quantitative and qualitative methods by means of interviews, actual observation and case studies. Interviews and observation will take place in a grade school that uses computers, cell phones and gadgets as instruments of learning. The participants will be elementary and high school students. The study will focus around the topic of heavy use of computers, the frequency of usage, and how children’s normal physical and mental abilities are affected, negatively or positively.
In addition to interviews and observation, the research will also focus on previous studies conducted on the heavy usage of computers in schools and homes. This will explore empirical studies and case studies about the subject, drawing data and information from websites and data bases about the subject.
With the vast information from the literature and actual interviews from a sample of grade school and high school students, the research will then proceed to analysis and discussion of the gathered data and information during the actual writing of the dissertation. Quantitative analysis and appropriate qualitative method of drawing conclusions and recommendations will be rightly formulated.
The conclusion will prove or disprove the hypothesis that children’s social skills are affected by heavy device usage. The gathering of data will take a month and the writing and analysis that will lead to a conclusion of the study will consume a week.
The strongest point that I will prove, with empirical evidence in the research, is that device usage prevents children from socializing organically with others. Interaction among children and students has always been with the use of social media, and organic or person-to-person interaction/socialization has been limited in a sense. Cell phones are not just for communication but are also for entertainment.
Bebell, D., Russell, M., & O’Dwyer, L. (2004). Measuring teachers’ technology uses: Why multiple-measures are more revealing. International Society for Technology in Education, 37(1), 45-63. Web.
Brooks-Gunn, J., & Donahue, E. (2008). Introducing the issue. Web.
Clements, D. (1999). Young children and technology. In G. Nelson (Ed.), Dialogue on early childhood science, mathematics, and technology (pp. 92-105). Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Couse, L., & Chen, D. (2010). A tablet computer for young children? Exploring its viability for early childhood education. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 43(1), 75-98. Web.
Dertouzos, M. Developmental risks: The hazards of computers in childhood. Web.
Keengwe, J., & Onchwari, G. (2009). Technology and early childhood: A technology integration professional development model for practicing teachers. Early Childhood Education Journal, 37, 209-218. Web.
Plowman, L., McPake, J., & Stephen, C. (2010). The technologisation of childhood? Young children and technology in the home. Children and Society, 24(1), 63-74. Web.
Spence, S. (2003). Social skills training with children and young people: Theory, evidence and practice. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 8(2), 84-06. Web.
Wang, F., & Kinzie, M. (2009). Applying technology to inquiry-based learning in early childhood education. Web.
Zickuhr, K. (2011). Generations and their gadgets. Web.