The digital age is upon us, whether we like it or not, and it is part of our kids’ lives, and will continue to be for many, many years to come. But what is this doing to them? Is it all bad?
Well, no, it’s actually not. There are without a doubt two schools of thought when it comes to exposing our kids to technology…some strongly for the idea and some strongly against it. Here we’ll take a look at what your kids can gain from being exposed to technology as well as some of the dangers to watch out for, and how to handle them. There is no denying the fact that technology is here to stay, and if our kids don’t keep up, they’ll be left out in the cold of the ever-changing technology landscape as they grow older.
Have you ever sat down with your child at a computer or with their iPad? Quite frankly it’s astounding. They race around the screens knowing exactly what to do and they outwit you…and most of it is self-taught. In the technology area of kids’ lives they rule, you’re not the dominant factor in this scenario, that’s for sure! Watching them type and text is like watching a hurricane. So what do we do? Well get those techy gadgets out and start playing and more importantly make sure as a family communication is king.
Besides the benefits of the digital age, we need to equip our kids to deal with it too, it’s all about balance.
How can your Kids Benefit from the Digital Age?
There are actually some amazing benefits to exposing your kids to the great big technological world out there, and many people aren’t really aware of these benefits as the focus is often tilted towards the harsh negatives. Yes, there are negatives, but as parents, if we manage them, our kids can soar to new heights. So, how can your kids benefit from technology?
- They’ll have better hand-eye coordination as they actively participate on screen.
- It improves language skills. They are exposed to eBooks and numerous apps online that help to develop this all important skill.
- The digital world helps with school readiness and cognitive brain development. There are absolutely heaps of games and apps out there that are particularly geared towards pre-school kids, helping to prepare them for school with reading and maths skills. Besides that, these games and apps allow kids to engage in higher-order thinking and applied learning.
- Improves visual attention. Take a look at your kids when they’re playing a game or are tapping away at their iPads or tablets. They are fully engaged and pay more attention to detail to complete activities.
- It motivates out kids to complete tasks. Think about it like this…most games and apps are designed in such a way that in order to unlock the next level, you need to complete a level first, so there’s no copping out here. They want the gratification of that achievement so will stick with it.
- Develops spatial skills through seeing and interacting with a game. They can see how big a building is for example, as opposed to a cat and this helps them to understand the world around them.
- Develops problem solving skills as they need to figure out what to do in order to achieve a particular goal. They need to figure out what comes next and what to do next. If they get it wrong, they need to try again, with a different tactic.
- Technology can expand horizons. This might sound a bit odd at first, but if you consider the fact that you can’t travel the world year in and year out, your kids can see things online that they can’t see in real life. Again, this helps them understand the great big wide world and what’s out there.
- If your kids are exposed to the online world, you’ll be able to figure out what their special skills and talents are as well as their interests. Perhaps they’ve developed a love of music, or decided that cars are their thing, or even that they’re passionate about animals. The opportunities are endless through online exposure.
Those are some pretty jaw-droppingly great skills for your kids to learn and even though the digital age for kids is seen as the big bad wolf, it isn’t always necessarily the case!
What are the Cons of the Digital Age for your Kids?
Unfortunately, there is a dark side to the digital world too, and although we believe that exposing kids to the online world is good for them, it’s good to be aware of some of the dangers that might lurk, and to manage them properly for online happiness in your home.
But how have kids’ lives changes as a result of our great technology age?
- Our kids are spending less time outdoors, and they’re not exercising as much which does bring the issue of obesity into play. As a parent, make sure that outside play is part of their daily routine, whether it’s an organized sport, a trip to the park, or going cycling. Mix up ideas for outside time, so they enjoy it more. Also take part as a family as kids lead by example.
- Face-to-face interaction is reducing all the time. As parents we need to lead by example. Have you ever sat in a restaurant and taken a look around? How many people have their noses stuck in their phones…a LOT! Even if we go all the way back to when your kids were babies, they learn to communicate and gain essential skills by watching their parent’s expressions. But, we’re all stuck on our phones or electronic devices, so that little bit of learning gets chucked out the window. When you’re with your kids, say goodbye to your device, we know you can do it!
- Relationships can also be affected. So, you’re sitting at the dining room table, for a family meal together, and that all important work email comes in. You charge to your phone as if your life depended on it. You forget what you’re doing and get lost in the digital world. If your kids interrupt you while you’re digesting the nuggets of information, you can sometimes be dismissive and even harsh. Remember this, if your digital device is attached to your hip, then you’re showing your kids that it’s okay to do the same thing, and that dismissive and harsh response at being interrupted can affect your relationships. Keep that phone well tucked away when you’re bonding with your family. Work can wait!
- Did you know that the number of kids online has increased by 38% since 2009, and even more astounding is that most of these kids have never played a board game? Ever! Although this might sound quite trivial in the greater scheme of things, playing board games together is a great time to bond, and it also teaches your kids important lessons like taking turns, knowing all about winning and losing and it also builds confidence and self-esteem.
- Kids are not engaging in real face-to-face friendships as much. They’re either playing games online with them, or even texting. The average teen sends about 3,000 texts a month! Make sure that your kids have plenty of opportunities for face-to-face interaction with their friends, not just virtual interactions.
- Kids aren’t learning the important life lesson of empathy, which is an important emotion. It is about being tolerant, caring and controlling your emotions. Let’s face it, you certainly can’t empathize with a device or care for it, well let’s say at least not yet. Playing with other kids is learning about sharing, taking turns and giving too. Not sure an iPad will share with you!
- Homework is being affected as kids know that little digital device is waiting for them for their daily fix. They race through their homework, not paying much attention and then charge like an elephant to their online world. The Kaiser Family Foundation found earlier this year that half of students from 8 to 18 are using the Internet, watching TV or using some other forms of media either “most” (31%) or “some” (25%) of the time while they are doing homework. That makes it impossible to concentrate. The solution lies in monitoring and keeping an eye on what your kids are up to. Those digital devices need to be well and truly turned off when homework is on the cards, unless of course they are needed for homework!
- Our kids are not getting enough sleep as they completely lose track of time while they’re online. This affects their mood and they become irritable when forced to switch off. One of the most serious aspects is loss of sleep and we all know what a tired child is like. It’s not a pretty sight!
- Unfortunately there are unsavoury things that happen in the online world, whether it’s a high level of violence or even sex that they are exposed to. Pop up ads are not particularly appropriate for kids, and they are extremely hard to turn off. This type of stuff can be highly disturbing as well as psychologically damaging. We need to watch what they’re playing, and if needs be, find a way to block pop-up ads on their devices.
- New technology has made it easier for bullies to reach their victims. The UK charity Family Lives says it is on the rise. This is one thing to keep a serious eye on. Communicate with your kids and form a strong bond of trust, so that they know to come to you as soon as something happens.
Yes our kids are spending a lot of time on digital devices, but it’s up to us to manage the time spent on them, and to make sure we give them a balanced life through different adventurous experiences, whether it’s outdoor time, or even that family game night we spoke about!