Is our Dependence on Technology Impacting our Children?
Date Posted:3 October 2019
Does this sound familiar?
You have a child who is a healthy, highly energetic, curious individual that’s always asking, "why, why, why!"
It’s 6pm, you’ve had a stressful day at work, you’ve come home and still need to prepare dinner, catch up on the washing, as well as finish up some work to meet your deadline tomorrow. You don’t have the time or the patience to answer every ‘why’ your lovingly, annoying child is throwing your way. What do you do?
Majority of the time you’ll give your child the tablet with a ‘child friendly’, ‘educational’ game or video to distract them and give you some much needed peace and quiet.
At Piptree we’ve been doing some investigating into this modern way of stimulating your child and we’ve come up with some ideas...
Over-reliance on technology to stimulate and educate children is an issue that is unique to new parents and young children today. As early learning service providers, we whole-heartedly believe that although structured ‘tech-time’ has definite benefits, there isn’t much attention given to the possible downsides of over-use. As such, we see it as our duty to inform and educate parents about the dangers of using television, tablets and phones as the primary sources of entertainment and education for children.
Real versus Virtual
We now live in a world where nursery school teachers are complaining that children are coming to class with an understanding of how to navigate an iPad,
“…but lacking the manipulative skills to play with building blocks”.
Teachers also reported a noticeable lack of social skills which has affected the levels of interaction between pupils. Just let that sink in for a moment…
We all need a break sometimes
At a time when we are more ‘connected’ than ever, we have unknowingly been conditioning our children to be less social with their play time. The addictive nature of the content available on tablets and phones has led to our children craving constant stimulation, which in turn has affected social, cognitive and physical skill development.
This is something that many parents have been guilty of – and it’s totally understandable as to why! Sometimes we all need a break, and the technology is undeniably effective in capturing the attention of a young child, allowing mums and dads to have a little ‘me time’.
So where do we go from here? Should we cut off all access to technology for young children?
That’s an easy one to answer. Simply put, in today’s digital environment, it is a close to impossible task to cut children off from technology. Doing so would be irresponsible because society is moving further and further into the ‘tech world’ and children do need to have some level of technological competence.
As parents and educators, we need to adapt to the world that we live in, but not lose sight of the fundamental skills that must be developed in the first 5 years of a child’s life – some of which technology just can’t teach.
We firmly believe that the solution lies in the balance. Parents should be aware of both the benefits and the concerns that go hand in hand with the use of these devices. Our wide range of educational toys bridge the gap between learning and play, whilst encouraging social, physical and cognitive skill development.
Our toys have proven to be as engaging and stimulating as phones, tablets and TV. You can either play with your child and bond over real experiences, or you can teach them the basics of the game initially, and then let their imagination take over while you enjoy that little break that we all need as parents!
What does the research say?
A study conducted in 2014 by members of The University of Arkansas questioned the Impact of Technology on Play Behaviours in Early Childhood(1). The research was funded by a State-wide Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) in conjunction with the Honors College at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.
One of the key pieces of literature that influenced the study is the following:
“As digital toys gain prominence in the play environments of young children, additional research needs to be completed to determine the effects of digital play on the development of interpersonal skills in children.”(2)
The researchers formulated a series of questions to determine the impact that technology has on play behaviours. For example:
- Do children play differently if the toy is a digital toy versus a physical toy?
- Do the children involve others in their play?
- What is the quality and amount of talk during play?
- Do children from digital versus traditional homes differ in their use of eye gaze to establish/maintain interaction during play with real versus digital objects?
After conducting the study and analysing the data, the researchers concluded that
“the total time and duration of play did not differ with physical and digital toys, whether high tech or low tech children.”(1)
However a key finding was, that for all children involved in the study, average instances of eye contact, body positioning and hand movement were higher for physical toys than for digital. The ‘low tech’ children were more interactive with the researchers and had a higher average for requesting objects during physical play.
The importance of physical play cannot be over-emphasised, especially in regards to children in the 0-5 age bracket. Physical play leads to pretend play; the frequency and effectiveness of pretend play has undeniable links to future language and social development in children.
These conclusions revealed to us at Piptree the subtle dangers of having children become accustomed to and dependent on technology for play. As previously mentioned, it is crucial for children to develop social and physical skills in the first 5 years of life. By recognising that children naturally gravitate toward more social and interactive behaviour when playing with physical toys, we have made it a priority to source quality toys that provide the necessary physical interaction and purposeful learning, whilst still remaining fun and engaging for kids.
As firm believers of the philosophy that children play to learn and learn to play, we see it as our responsibility to provide parents with information that can have a positive influence on your child’s development as they learn and grow.
If you enjoyed reading this post, stay tuned to our news page for more informative articles and resources!
- Smith, Hannah B. (2014). "The impact of digital and physical play on early childhood development". Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders Undergraduate Honors Theses. 24. (Link)
- Subrahmanyam, K., Greenfield, P., Kraut, R., & Gross, E. (2001). The impact of computer use on children’s and adolescents’ development. Applied Developmental Psychology, 22, 7-30. (Link)