Today many of our children, even young children, are constantly interacting with technology—television, computers, cell phones, video games, and so on. One parent told me her three-year-old had to show her how to navigate the web! As parents we worry, “Is technology bad for our children?”
In my opinion technology is technology–whether it is a pencil or a computer. Technology is anything we use to extend our senses and ability to communicate. The important question for me as a teacher/parent/grandparent is “Does the technology support the development, needs and expression of a child?” For example, I would have loved learning word processing at 5 years of age–pencils were painful for my left-handed grip–and I liked and still do a great deal of writing. Now, as an adult, I also use email, cell phones and other technology to create my own professional networks, sustain personal support systems and engage further in creative work. I don’t think technology is inherently bad for children–but there are certainly poor ways to use it!
In addition, some forms of technology are more limiting than others. For example, a coloring book, especially if you have to color inside the lines, is much more limiting to the imagination than a sketchbook. A computer program that asks for specific answers to questions is more limiting than one that encourages children to solve problems, express ideas and make connections.
One goal of mine and my fellow authors is to help kids use technology to create, problem solve, understand, express and–yes–communicate—positively. In our afterschool programs, even young children are helped to use cameras to search for “ideas” in the world around them. They are too young to articulate or draw what they see but they can point a camera. Teachers and parents are often amazed to see the unique viewpoints that are revealed when children have technology that supports their purpose.
The next time you are tempted to buy your child the latest technological marvel for kids, I hope you’ll think: How can this tool help the thinking and creativity of my child?