Remember the good ol’ days as a kid, running around the cul-de-sac with our neighborhood friends, where kidnapping never seemed to be a concern for our parents? The days where texting wasn’t a thing — mom would just yell, “be home before dark!” by the time you’ve already ran halfway out the door. I know I’m not the first to admit that I have fond memories of those days.
For a long time, I’ve dreaded raising kids in this technology-crazed society. My soul has longed for the opportunity to relive my childhood vicariously through my kids. A simple childhood, where all they know is an intentional world where people actually get together to talk, rather than be content with relationships built on fleeting texts messages. Where they could know what it’s like not to be haunted by the millions of influences at their fingertips.
But eventually, I had a realization: why does a childhood including electronics and a childhood spent frolicking around in the park have to be mutually exclusive from one another? Isn’t it possible that a moderate amount of technology in a child’s development could not only be acceptable, but actually helpful?
The truth is: technology is only going to become more prevalent. We need to teach our kids not to avoid it, but how to utilize it well.
I’m not suggesting that it’s okay for children to bury their faces in their cell-phones and television all day. What I am suggesting is that technology, in particular forms, can be implemented intentionally and thoughtfully — teaching them proper disciplines with it, and educating them in the process.
Maybe it’s not that technology itself is inherently the enemy in our kids’ lives. Maybe it’s just that we should make careful choices with it. Maybe moderation is key.
In a world where technology is made out to be the baby’s arch nemesis in the eyes of parents, I’m willing to entertain the idea that babies and technology can have a healthy relationship with one another.
Widely known psychotherapist, Annie Gurton, recommends allowing children to play educational games on the iPad while you’re cooking dinner. Allowing designated “iPad time” for your child for a few minutes once or twice a day, during moments where you are preoccupied anyway — does not take intentional time of social interaction away from the child. It gives them a tool to help educate and entertain them during those off moments. She does not, however, recommend TV, because it is not interactive or stimulating.
According to recent research from the University of London, babies are more stimulated by iPads than they are by reading books. One of the major reasons for this is because books are static. While parents tend to believe that babies are fascinated by the colors and shapes they see on book pages, they are actually more interested in the movement of the pages turning. Because iPad technology accounts for movement, babies are more focused on iPad content than they are with book content.
The National Academies Press’ work, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8, claims that technology, implemented moderately, can positively play into early child development. Not only do they explain how technology can help facilitate children’s language, literacy, creative, and mathematics skills, but technology can also be used to aid children in social interactions as well.
“In some cases, the use of educational technology has been shown to increase social interactions, especially those centered around subject-matter content. Children prefer to work with a peer rather than alone when they use the computer, a context that can promote collaborative work, including helping or instructing each other as well as discussing and building upon each others’ ideas. These social interactions in turn generate increased use of language (Clements and Sarama, 2007).”
Whether or not you decide that technology and your baby will be friends is entirely up to you. But to all the mamas who carry a weight of shame every time they let their child interact with electronics: breathe deep. Give yourself grace. As long as you never let technology rob their childhood from playing outdoors, making crafts, and quality time with friends and family — you’re golden in our books!