It is first important to note that many criticisms of technology—including information overload, social and moral decay, and deterioration of intelligence and attention—are the same fears that were present during the advent of the television, motion picture, radio, telephone and even printing press. (See Don’t Touch That Dial) In every case the fears were usually reactionary rather than being based in tangible evidence.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a maximum of two hours of passive entertainment media per day for children over the age of two. (See Media and Children) However, it makes no statement regarding the use of educational or interactive media beyond recommending a balance between physical and digital experiences. Most published criticisms of technology also fail to distinguish between technology used for passive entertainment, such as television, and educational or gaming technology, both of which are primarily active.
NIST regularly incorporates technology into the classroom, using it as a tool to enhance learning. This includes the use the iPads, laptops and the Internet. While a great deal of criticism has been levied toward technology in general, research demonstrates that balanced use of technology for educational purposes in schools produces positive effects.
The following evidence supports our use of engaging educational technology:
- Technology enhances traditional learning in multiple areas: “Research literature throughout the past decade has shown that technology can enhance literacy development, impact language acquisition, provide greater access to information, support learning, motivate students, and enhance their self-esteem”. (See What Is the Impact of Technology on Learning?)
- The use of technology in the workplace will continue to grow, and integrating technology into the curriculum prepares students for this future: “Technology prepares students for the workforce at a young age, which is becoming more and more of a vital skill as technology in our society becomes more relevant. According to the US Department of Commerce, sixty percent of jobs today require technological skills, and this is expected to increase to ninety percent in the next fifty years.” (See Determining the Effects of Technology on Children)
What Does This Mean for Parents?
While the use of technology generally has positive effects on learning, there is a real risk of addiction or overuse. Additionally, educational and interactive content lead to benefits that entertainment media does not. Encouraging the positive use of technology can be addressed through several tactics:
- Establish clear agreements and expectations: Identify places and times in your home where computers and devices will not be used. Decide as a family which types of media are acceptable.
- Monitor and regulate the media your children access: While educational media and even age-appropriate gaming is largely beneficial, passive entertainment media is not, particularly at young ages. Graphic violence and sexual content can have a highly negative effect on young children: “longitudinal correlational research has demonstrated a negative association between early exposure to violent video content and academic achievement”. (See Media and Young Children’s Learning)
- Don’t be afraid to take away technology: If your children overuse devices or spend too much time in front of a screen, enforce your family agreements and forbid continued use. Contact the school counsellors if you need help in doing this.
- Encourage a balance of other activities: Children should have at least three to four hours of physical activity every day. This includes sports, outdoor activities, exercising or even walking. Enroll your children in an appropriate ECA or similar activities.
- Model digital citizenship: Your children learn best by watching you. If you want them to value relationships with others more than technology, show them how to do this by following your family agreements. Designate time in your day when you do not use a computer or device, and instead spend time with your children.