Technology and its influence on our children can be a controversial topic. Across the world, attitudes towards how much children should be engaging with screens and electronic devices can vary quite dramatically.
Last month Facebook announced that it would be launching Messenger Kids, a new social messaging app aimed at children aged 13 and under. Yet, also in the news in December, France announced that it will be banning students from using mobile phones in the country’s primary, junior, and middle schools.
It appears that we are in constant turmoil regarding the role that technology should be playing in our children’s lives and how much time they should be spending on these devices. However, according to a recent study out of the University of Michigan, it is not how much time they spend on these devices which is the most influential factor, but how they engage with them.
“Typically, researchers and clinicians quantify or consider the amount of screen time as of paramount importance in determining what is normal or not normal or healthy or unhealthy,” said lead author Sarah Domoff from the University of Michigan Center for Human Growth and Development.
“Our study has demonstrated that there is more to it than number of hours. What matters most is whether screen use causes problems in other areas of life or has become an all-consuming activity,” she adds.
Typical warning signs might be if screen time interferes with daily activities, causes conflict for the child or in the family, or is the only activity that brings the child joy.
However, with the correct content and with appropriate time limits, electronic devices can be used for a world of good, helping to shape our children’s minds in the right direction.
“In education screen access can be especially powerful when used in concert with and amplifying other educational tools. Screen access can be an educational launch point for hands-on challenges, real-world problem solving and collaboration,” stated Dee Guiney, Founder, and CEO of GreenApple STEM, a business that provides the platform, curriculum, tools and training to deliver STEM and Innovation courses online.
“We see digital media as one component or one part of the equation for success. Kids’ fascination with screens can help start the conversation with parents, friends and teachers. We strive to integrate screen use in education to pique kids’ curiosity and inspire them to engage more broadly with the world around them,” she adds.
It is obvious that no child should have unlimited access to any electronic devices, especially given how addicted adults are to their phones. However, with the right attitude and content, electronic devices can be an incredible source of information and education for young children.