Just how bad is technology for your kids?

I read about this and it have me wondering how to balance it as the summary says
"Like all things, gadgets and technology can be used to supplement a child's education or distract him. It is up to the child how he uses it, and the onus is on the parents to enforce discipline in its usage."

Even my 19-month toddler is already fell in love with iPad

Just how bad is technology for your kids?

Today's parents find it easier to educate their children using tablet PCs and smartphones.
- Reuters photo


There was a time when parents feared their kids watched too much television. Today, the idiot box is joined by gadgets – from computers to tablet PCs, mobile phones, flip down car monitors and interactive application toys.

In an average household in the city, most kids would be exposed to at least two to three gadgets.

The technology revolution has sparked a new debate about how much exposure kids should be allowed and how technology interferes with their personal development as well as whether it has a negative impact on them.

There are parents who think technology is good, and then there are those who think it should be adopted in moderation.

Learning tool

Whatever your stand, there's no denying that today's parents find it easier to educate their children using tablet PCs and smartphones. For example, allowing children to perform research using a tablet PC helps them complete their homework faster, and they learn more in the process.

“Using the Internet also makes it fun for our children. They tend to develop a creative side and thus become over-achievers,” enthuses electronics engineer Jackie Veleyuthan, 44, father of 16-year-old Joe.

Veleyuthan supports the use of computers and finds the Internet a good source of knowledge for his son. However, as a parent, he believes he should be responsible for what his son is exposed to.

He says that even things like gaming forums and chat clients can be beneficial for his son.

“When my son joins gaming forum groups or spends time on instant chat clients (on Facebook / Twitter) he tends to chat with other teens around the world. This, I believe, encourages cultural harmony and sparks a wide interest in different people and cultures.

“When he gets to know someone from a different region, it helps him pay more attention during Geography lessons since he has formed 'connections' with his Internet friends and wants to know more about their country. This indeed sparks a bigger interest compared to just reading facts from a text book.”
Tisha Ng: 'It is important that they are able to go outdoors to touch and feel a plant.'
Homemaker Tisha Ng, 28, mother of two boys aged eight months and 3½ years, agrees that technology can be beneficial, but she would still rather raise her kids the old-fashioned way.

“While I know that the advancement in technology can have a positive impact on kids today, I still believe in educating my kids sans computers, laptops or phones.

“It is important that they are able to go outdoors to touch and feel a plant and see how it grows rather than learn about it from the Internet. Hence, I limit the usage of technology with my boys.

“When they play with items like plants, or see a fish swimming around or even find a bird's nest filled with eggs, it piques their curiosity more. I believe it helps them in the creative department and encourages them to explore further.”

Dr Edward Chan, principal consultant psychologist at the International Psychology Centre, says it's not all bad. “Educational software can improve a child's learning ability in ways that may be difficult for teachers to achieve.

"Picture play, interactive options and other activities are easily attained with gadgets such as tablet PCs and computers.

“Although the learning methods are different and in some ways may even cause 'laziness' amongst children when everything is just a click away, it also is convenient and the interactiveness further stimulates brain functionality.
Dr Edward Chan: 'It boils down how much they expose their kids to, especially for educational purposes.'
“A child not only ends up finding out a solution to one problem, but may possibly discover other new capabilities. It becomes more relative to these kids, especially in today's world.

“Hence, these different learning styles are indeed helping children achieve their full learning and academic potentials.

“It all boils down to the parent and how much they expose their kids to, especially for educational purposes,” says Dr Chan.

How about social skills?

A big concern among parents is that gadgets impede a child's social skills as they become more used to interacting with gadgets.

“My kid practically grew up with computers. I don't think having him indoors instead of outdoors has in any way hindered his ability to socialise in public. If anything, it has helped him gain from knowing the cultural differences in people around the globe. He has picked up various languages and this only makes him more popular in school,” proud father Veleyuthan explains.

Perhaps the argument leans more towards the fact that kids tend to spend more time playing games on these electronic devices, instead of going outdoors and playing tag or riding their bikes with their friends.

“This would be my point.” Ng reiterates. “I would rather my kids spend time outside riding their bikes with friends or throwing a ball around than being cooped up in doors, glued to the computer and clicking on a mouse to shoot something in 'space',” says Ng.

Psychologist Dr Chan points out that computer games have their benefits and drawbacks.

“Computer games that involve strategy can improve a child's cognitive development. Strategy and puzzle games help the creative side of the brain and encourage a child to think. With the right balance, it certainly can improve their learning abilities, creativity and other cognitive, emotional and social functioning.

“Having said that though, there should be a balance between indoor and outdoor activities to stimulate emotional, physical and social development,” says Dr Chan.

New linguistic issue

Balancing a child's exposure to technology is something parents have to manage. Another, is monitoring their language.

While phones make it easy to communicate, they have also introduced new forms of short messaging, which have made their way into school books and exam papers.

Having become so used to abbreviating words, some children don't know when to stop using the short forms.

For example, a child might actually think the word “through” is spelled “thru” or use “b4” instead of “before”. This leads to kids losing the ability to spell correctly and using short forms in their daily writing.

“There really is a simple way to work around this,” Veleyuthan suggests.

“Simply introduce your child to the dictionary function on the computer or even phone. Honestly, this has helped not only my child to spell better, but me too!

“The dictionary function for different types of devices offers various spelling methods including British English and American English. It even helps with auto correction,” he adds. 

This may not work for all parents as it involves making the time to discipline and monitor their children to ensure they are using the dictionary and spelling the words out.

Nonetheless, the simple mobile phone has come as a  huge relief to parents, who realise that they can easily keep tabs on their children. GPS locators  on mobile phones help parents know the whereabouts of their kids at all times.

“I wouldn't go overboard and get my teenage son a Samsung Galaxy Note II, or whatever the latest smartphone is. Perhaps just a simple mobile phone with the basic capabilities which are enough for him to communicate with me no matter where he is.

“If he wants a better and more sophisticated phone, he can get one himself when he starts working!” Veleyuthan says.

In a nutshell

Gadgets and technology do not necessarily isolate children. Research suggests that videogame players are consistently more social, confident and comfortable solving problems than non-gamers.

Technology helps educate children in ways that are best suited to their personal learning styles. According to Dr Chan, an estimated 60-80% of children are visual learners, and technology makes it easier to supplement verbal content like reading with pictures and graphs.

Technology is also said to condition the brain to pay attention to information very differently compared to reading.

Like all things, gadgets and technology can be used to supplement a child's education or distract him. It is up to the child how he uses it, and the onus is on the parents to enforce discipline in its usage.

Gadgets and technology on their own are not good or evil. They are mere tools.


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