The Impact of Technology on Children

The days of driving to the public library to find information are now replaced by the swipe, touch, and typing on a hand-held device.  Instant gratification reveals a detailed answer in a matter of seconds, including the option of viewing additional sources. The “seek until found” mentality or using the memory to recall phone numbers, appointments, or destinations can now be considered old-fashioned.  With just a link to the Internet, the ease of life has changed every aspect of our lifestyle. Every desirable need, from ordering groceries or furniture, learning how to change the oil, to reading a book is within a hand’s reach.  “Technically savvy” no longer describes young teens or adults; instead, the term goes to toddlers, who are quick to meander through screens and games.  But if technology has advanced so far as to resolve every question, why are so many children struggling socially and educationally?

Delays in Cognitive Development

Parents often remark how quickly toddlers learn to utilize technological devices. As quick learners, young children are dazzled by the moving pictures, colorful scenes and lights, rather than by a container of blocks or board books on a shelf. The very developmental nature of practicing visual, spatial, and motor skills embedded in building towers with blocks, in pretending, or in strengthening hands to climb and slide down, although needed, is no longer the focus in developing our children’s cognitive development. 


One of the gateways to attention is thinking, and it is linked to perception, memory, language, learning, reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making.  Without these skills, children may struggle to focus effectively. Book nooks or reading corners allow a quiet yet alluring place to sustain their attention while using imagination and memory.  When the environment alters to include a visual stimulus and auditory input such as television, the result offers little need for imagination or intense concentration. Consider the similarities between jet skiing and surfing on the Internet.  While quickly skimming along the surface, distractions pop up, which breaks concentration and memory.

Touch Verses Pencil

Children are indeed caught in a tug-of-war between the tools of an electronic device and using paper and pencil.  Since most methods of communication often require a computer or the Internet, is teaching writing with paper and pencil necessary? The answer is “Yes.”

And, there is substantial proof. Success in processing information often requires a visual connection such as handwriting one word at a time onto paper.  It is a conscious act linking thinking, reviewing, and a basic level of understanding. As a result, students who are “wired” to the Internet perform more poorly on tests than classmates who choose to hand-write notes.  Similar to the jet ski comparison, typing is a fast action, but it does not require processing.

In our convenient world of lightweight tablets containing e-books and unlimited “word” documents, there is a struggle between the ease of typing and the pain of writing, especially to the third finger of the left or right hand.  Even school-age children acknowledge the enjoyment of touch to holding a pencil. As a result, a higher number of preschoolers resist using writing utensils.

Moderation is the Key!

There is value in limiting a child’s screen time while promoting exercise, activities both engaging and quiet, and imaginative play.  Exposure to technology is not all harmful.  Video games, for instance, can improve visual-spatial capabilities, increase attention and reaction times, and the ability to identify details among clutter; however, technology cannot be the only skill to function in the world.  In place of playing in online virtual worlds, children need time in the real world to spend with neighbors or friends, engage in face-to-face conversations, and practice writing in complete sentences.

As a result, technology can be a resource for educational needs.  Video games and hand-held devices are both our present and our future.  The threat to our children’s adaptability derives from extended times connected to some form of hand-held device.  Parents should be aware of the need to focus on tangible items, such as books, blocks, playgrounds, and board games to promote interaction and togetherness.


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