We live in a technological age where it often seems that everything is coming at us all at once and information overload is the edge of a cliff we teeter on daily. My son, who is not even 3 years old, plays games on my iPad and has his own tablet – a Nabi. Watching him navigate the programs – some educational and some not – has led me to question whether it serves a greater good or harmful to his cognitive development.
I know he is learning hand-eye coordination and being exposed to a great many ideas, enhanced vocabulary and even the beginnings of critical thinking skills, but is there a hidden cost? Parenting magazine had an article entitled “The Right Technology for Kids at Every Age.” The answer, according to the article’s author, Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe M.D., the American Academy of Pediatric’s tech expert, isn’t entirely helpful in settling the question. She believes, “there really is no ‘right’ age to allow our kids to dip a toe into the digital pond.”
O’Keeffe proclaims that thanks to technology we are free to open “the mind to an almost endless expanse of knowledge.” She went on to list different devices and apps and what your child should be able to do with such devices at different ages. The only warning I found was about cell phones emitting electromagnetic fields and a child’s developing skull being thinner than that of an adult. But doesn’t knowledge of any sort require a context, a level of maturity to process and value it? Can we integrate knowledge and use it without that gate? Should we even try? On that, O’Keefe is silent.
This complicated issue definitely involves balance – allowing your child some exposure while also making sure they have equal or more time to use their imaginations, read books and play games that do not require batteries.