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The Pros & Cons of Programming With Technology

How young is too young for children to benefit from technology? Exposure is literally unavoidable as many people today have technology in their homes. Our children's generation will use technology far more than we can ever imagine. Daily, we see small children in strollers handed smart phones or iPads and marvel at how well they manipulate these devices. Research has not yet produced any conclusive findings regarding the impact of multi-media devices on the development of young children but with the greater introduction of technology it is time we explore some pros and cons of using technology with young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend the use of technology for children under the age of two. With that in mind here are some potential benefits and downfalls:

Pros

  1. Teaching cause and effect. Children quickly learn that they can impact their environment and be in control of a response. Fisher Price does have several apps for infants and toddlers that focus on animals, body parts, shapes, colours, counting and music.
  2. Versatility of the device. Technology allows children to be engaged in a multitude of skill building tools at any time of the day, thus maximizing opportunities for learning.
  3. Equity for children with special needs. IPad/tablet technology is being used in many therapy sessions as well as allowing children to interact in the community using a socially acceptable device. There are apps that have been developed to increase receptive language, build vocabulary and enhance overall communication.
  4. Innovation provides empowerment. Innovation provides children the tools needed to solve problems, this empowers them to figure out solutions independently and find the information they seek.
  5. A teaching tool. Many programs can be used to learn and nurture creativity. They are great at teaching collaboration, team building and turn taking. Children can learn privately and at their own pace.
  6. Prepares for the future. Technology is essential in building a child's tech expertise. Children that don’t learn technology today will find themselves far behind before they reach middle school.

Cons

  1. Lack of movement. It is a fear that in a society of growing obesity, technology can lead to a sedentary lifestyle.
  2. Time consuming. Hours can fly by before anyone realizes that they have been on the computer for too long.
  3. Encourages instant gratification. With technology enabling things to be delivered instantly or to have constant access, kids today may become easily impatient if they don’t get what they want right away. This also leads to social issues.
  4. Potential addiction. It has been suggested that social media sites and social networking are not only time consuming but addictive. Many children today spend half their day texting, emailing and posting on social media sites.
  5. Loss of social skills. Smart phones, iPads and computers are interactive but only between the child and the device. Children need the opportunity to interact with actual people to learn about language and develop social skills.
  6. Loss of fine motor skills. Young children need time to manipulate their environment through handson toys and real life experiences such as stacking toys, building blocks, nesting cups, scribbling with crayons and stirring pots. These are all real skills that lead to later success.
  7. Gray matter atrophy. Multiple studies have shown atrophy (shrinkage or loss of tissue volume) in gray matter areas (where “processing” occurs) in internet/gaming addiction (Zhou 2011, Yuan 2011, Weng 2013,and Weng 2012). Areas affected included the important frontal lobe, which governs executive functions, such as planning, prioritizing, organizing, and impulse control (“getting stuff done”). Volume loss was also seen in the striatum, which is involved in reward pathways and the suppression of socially unacceptable impulses. A finding of particular concern was damage to an area known as the insula, which is involved in our capacity to develop empathy and compassion for others and our ability to integrate physical signals with emotion. Aside from the obvious link to violent behaviour, these skills dictate the depth and quality of personal relationships.
  8. Compromised white matter integrity. Research has also demonstrated a loss of integrity to the brain’s white matter (Lin 2012, Yuan 2011, Hong 2013 and Weng 2013). “Spotty” white matter translates into loss of communication within the brain, including connections to and from various lobes of the same hemisphere, links between the right and left hemispheres, and paths between higher (cognitive) and lower (emotional and survival) brain centers. White matter also connects networks from the brain to the body and vice versa. Interrupted connections may slow down signals, “shortcircuit” them, or cause them to be erratic (“misfire”)." In closing it is not whether we should or should not expose our children to technology, rather the issue is how the adult can foster an enthusiasm for learning and balance the role small screens have in this process. The key to balancing the effects of technology on children is to practice moderation. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that screen time is limited to a total of two hours per day. This would include computers, tablets, iPads and smartphones. This should be balanced with physical movement and exercise. By supporting children to develop a balance of skills in all areas of development they will be better equipped to succeed in the future.

Sources: Brown, Ari & Christakis, Dimitri. (2012). Media Use and Early Brain Development. Retrieved June 12, 2017 from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/Media-Useand-Early-Brain-Development-Audio.aspx Dunckley, Victoria. (2014, February 27). Gray Matters, Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain. Psychology Today.

Submitted by Pemola Pereira Daponte, RECE, Resource Educator ~ City Of Toronto, Children's Services, Special Services Unit