There’s no denying the fact that we live in a world which is dominated by technology. Every year, the use of new tech ideas makes the world a better place to be. We can learn more, experience new things, and stay connected with one another through technology.
Parents often struggle with decisions which involve technology access. Reporting from PBS shows that kids today are getting a lot of screen time.
- Children under the age of 8 use technology for an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes each day, which is a consistent figure over the past decade.
- Kids between the ages of 5-8 spend almost 3 hours each day with screen-based technologies.
- 98% of children live in a home which owns at least one mobile device.
4% of children in 2011 spend the majority of their screen time in front of a mobile device. By 2017, that figure rose to 35%.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under 18 months have zero time in front of screen-based technologies. They suggest children under the age of 5 receive one hour or less each day.
If you’re thinking about using technology with your children, then here are the pros and cons to consider.
List of the Pros of Children Using Technology
1. Technology provides a source of educational entertainment for children.
Kids become easily distracted. Taking them on a long trip or keeping them engaged while you’re working as a parent is already challenging. Trying to have them learn something useful during these periods feels like an impossible task. Thanks to today’s educational apps for kids that are downloadable to most devices, these moments of downtime can promote learning opportunities.
Apps like Duolingo allow children to begin learning a foreign language. DragonBox teaches the fundamentals of mathematics. Science360 offers videos, photographs, and news stories to explore advanced scientific concepts. You’ll find spelling games and puzzles readily available too.
2. Kids have access to more information.
Access to technology allows today’s children to experience cultures in ways that could never be done before. They can watch videos showing the festivals and events held in other countries. It offers exposure to different religious and political views not always possible in a family setting. Through technology, today’s children have ways to broaden their horizons like never before. That structure helps to create a smaller world where more opportunities exist.
3. Technology prepares children for the future.
Technology will continue evolving. It isn’t going away. Exposing children to tech concepts early on prepares them for a future where they can remain productive. Programs like ABC Mouse allow children to be ready for school while promoting cognitive development. Sites like Zearn are used by schools to teach educational concepts. These tools make it possible for children to be prepared for math, reading, and other core subjects when they are old enough to be going to school on their own.
4. Using technology improves hand-eye coordination.
Programs and apps which encourage engagement further develop a child’s hand-eye coordination. Their eye-tracking improves with technology use as they follow objects on the screen or participate in application activities. These skills translate into better reading and writing while in school because the kids are accustomed to using the hands and eyes as ways to understand and communicate.
5. Language skills improve when using technology.
Kids have numerous opportunities to develop language skills because of technology. Games require them to follow specific instructions for success. Children can read e-books as a way to improve their vocabulary or stories which are entertaining. Online flashcards promote phonics and mathematical concepts. Kids today seem to have an intuitive understanding of how computers and mobile devices work. Giving them access to technology makes sense if it improves their learning capacity.
6. It creates faster, better decision-making skills.
Kids who play video games regularly reduce their susceptibility to biases by over 30% in immediate testing. Even after a 2-month break from playing them, the reduction in incidence bias is higher than 20%. According to research published in Policy Insights in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, kids who regularly play video games make faster decisions during critical incidents in their life. Their decision-making skills are consistently good as well when compared to children who don’t play games.
7. Technology helps children learn other skills or developed natural talents.
Kids can use technology today to write or illustrate, just as children in previous generations used word processors, typewriters, and graphics tables. We have always used the technology of our era to support personal pursuits in some way. Whether a child wants to learn how to play a musical instrument, write a short story, or communicate with their grandparents using a video call, they stay connected with themselves and their family because of what is available to them today.
List of the Cons of Children Using Technology
1. It promotes a sedentary lifestyle for kids.
Information released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 20% of school-aged children have a BMI which classifies them as being obese. The number of children struggling with their weight has tripled (similar to adult rates) since the 1970s. Using technology may promote new learning opportunities and provide more social connections, but it also encourages less movement. Spending more time indoors in front of a screen or using other technologies increases the risk of weight gain.
2. Technology creates new safety risks for children.
Netmums released a survey of 825 children between the ages of 7-16 in 2013, along with over 1,100 parents. The results found numerous safety risks for children when using technology.
- 29% of parents allowed their children to use the internet without any supervision or restrictions.
- 25% of kids online pretended to be older to get an account on a gaming site, social media, or some other forum.
- 1 in 12 kids admitted to an exchange of sexually-related content with other people, with 1 in 25 saying that they sent an explicit photo of themselves.
- 42% of kids say that they’ve seen online pornography at least once, with 1 in 16 noting that they’ve seen “hardcore” porn.
About 1 in 5 parents allow children as young as 3 years old to be online, sometimes without any supervision over the content they are seeing.
3. It creates in-person social disconnects.
Using technology to form relationships makes it more challenging to do the same in real life. Children who have more screen time have fewer personal interactions with others. That makes them less likely to be empathetic to the needs other people have, difficulty forming friendships, and fewer social skills that don’t involve computers, tablets, or consoles.
4. Relying on technology reduces the imagination of a child.
Imaginative play creates a positive impact on the development of a child. It encourages them to test the limits of their knowledge and abilities. They find confidence in themselves to solve problems, become resilient to challenges, and develop practical strategies to cope with frustration, anger, and fear. Technology does not provide these benefits at the same level because it shows a child imagery instead of encouraging them to imagine it on their own.
This lull in creative thought eventually shrinks the world around the child. They begin to stop engaging in real-life, preferring the fantasy worlds offered by technology instead. It is a disadvantage which leads to an increase in psychiatric disorders, ADHD, anxiety problems, and sensory processing disorders.
5. It creates virtual accomplishments.
Children using technology achieve accomplishments just as kids who don’t use modern tech do. The difference is that their achievements are in a virtual world. Imagine a child who becomes extremely good at a baseball game. They know the rules of baseball, understand hitting and pitching concepts, and may even dominate in online competitions. Does that translate into a real ability to hit the ball, run the bases, or pitch effectively?
Even with the rise of e-sports, children are finding that virtual accomplishments don’t mean much in the adult world. There must be a balance between the two to encourage learning and skill development.
6. Kids struggle with time-management when using technology.
The effect of children playing video games, using computers, or running an app on a mobile device is similar to what adults experience in a casino. Their environment does not include an element of time. By reducing access to time, people become hyper-focused on the activities which are in front of them. Enjoyable activities make time seems to occur at a faster pace, encouraging more extended interactions. Like an app or game doesn’t display time, dealers at a casino are encouraged not to wear watches.
7. There are negative impacts on children with developmental disabilities.
Specific technologies for children with developmental disabilities are profoundly helpful. They encourage reading, movement, and inclusion despite the challenges faced each day. Kids with developmental disabilities are empowered through the tech they use, but it can also become an addictive trap. Kids with these challenges often struggle to disengage from their activities, which creates unwanted (and potentially unsafe) behaviors when it cannot be used any longer.
8. Parents have a cost element to consider when introducing technology to their kids.
Let’s face it – buying modern technology isn’t cheap. Even an entry-level tablet with some functionality costs about $100. Purchasing a Chromebook puts you in a $150-$200 price range. If you want an Apple product, your tablet may cost $400 or more, while the computers are close to $1,000 for something basic. Homes with financial means will experience more of the advantages with their children using technology because they’ll have access to more choice. Over time, this creates a disadvantage for children who come from poorer, often rural households where tech access is somewhat restricted.
9. It may impact their eyesight.
Children who use screen-based technologies for extended periods are at a higher risk of developing Computer Vision Syndrome. Prolonged screen exposure creates eye fatigue, blurred vision, double vision, and sometimes a burning sensation. Kids who sit to use technology may experience lower back pain, neck pain, and headaches along with the vision concerns. The best way to prevent this damage is to take a 20-minute break for every 30 minutes of technology use. The computer desk or workstation should complement their size needs, with the computer screen being a maximum of 28 inches from their eyes.
The pros and cons of children using technology all come down to moderation. Anything can be harmful if it is overused, and today’s tech is no exception. We must aim for the benefits while structuring its use in ways that encourage movement, real-life interactions, and the building of social skills. When kids can have a hands-on learning opportunity with personal interactions with technology, they can achieve anything.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.