“ A Brave New World” How Technology (And Supervision) Can Benefit Our Children
“The times they are a-changin’,” nowhere is this more true than in the world of children and technology. Everything has changed so much since we grew up; even the last five years have seen huge changes, so we constantly need to re-evaluate the relationship of our children and technology. I grew up with a black and white TV with only 3 channels, and the first personal computers were just appearing on the market during my teenage years. I still remember the excitement when we got our first color TV, and a few years later when my younger brother got a Sinclair Spectrum (the UK’s answer to the Commodore 64). Fast-forward to now when my children use the iPad with ease, and just one of their apps takes up more memory than the Spectrum’s entire capacity.
So how do we deal with this brave new world? I think we need to embrace technology and all the great educational benefits it can bring our children, but at the same time keep a sense of balance. It is important they spend time doing other things too, such as playing outside, interacting with friends and playing sports. There are some wonderful child-friendly educational websites, but for me the most exciting innovation of recent years has been the introduction of touchscreen devices. When Apple introduced the iPad it revolutionized the industry, creating a whole new class of child friendly devices. Children can intuitively work out how to use the iPad and its Android cousins, and they can quickly pick up the elements of an app without any instruction or ability to read.
An iPad can contain a whole library of books, board games, and apps to teach a range of subjects from math through science and history and even provide a voice for a non-verbal child. It is an amazing interactive learning device, and I think it is important to help your children to translate what they learn from it into the real world. My five-year-old son recently decided that he wanted to learn to play chess, he learned from an app, and now he is playing against his big brother on his wooden chess set. I believe that digital books are a great way to instill a love of reading into a child; engaging reluctant readers with interactivity, narration, and word highlighting. With an app such as Reading Rainbow they have access to a whole library of books at their fingertips, once they learn to love reading this love will grow to encompass both print and digital books.
The iPad is a wonderful tool, but here are some suggestions on using it safely with children:
Screen apps before your children see them – watch out for coin in-app purchases, adverts, and social media links.
- Be in the room with your child when they are using it, and talk to them about what they are doing.
- Make sure you go into your device settings and enable restrictions. Switch off in-app purchases and set it to require a password immediately for purchases. You can also restrict installing and deleting apps, and limit mature content.
- Put the iPad in airplane mode to prevent them having access to the internet.
- Enable Guided Access. In iOS 6.0 and above it is in settings, under accessibility. This allows you to keep your child in one app, and to make areas of the screen off-limits.
- Keep a healthy balance between technology and off screen activities.Technology is ever-changing and our children have access to technology we would never have believed possible when we were growing up, but if you utilize common sense in how they use it, I think it is a change for the good.
This article was originally published on the Reading Rainbow Blog on May 24th, 2013