Parents often ask what I think about children and their use of technology at home. Should I let my child read a book on the Kindle? Are learning apps any good? My child spends a large amount of time watching videos on YouTube, should I be concerned?
Technology clearly has huge benefits and its use is widely seen everywhere. Nearly all classrooms now use interactive whiteboards for whole class teaching and in some schools, it’s not uncommon for children to have a personal laptop as part of their statutory school equipment. When it comes to using technology at home though, it does seems that parents are more cautious and concerned.
Market researchers, Childwise, survey around 2000 children aged 5-16 and collates data each year to examine the media habits of today’s children. Its report provides a comprehensive picture of how children’s interaction with the internet is changing the way they access information. With ownership of mobile devices at an all time high, the report now estimates that children aged 5-10 are spending on average 4.5 hours in front of a screen with the use of multi-screening being uncommon. Multi-screening is when more than one device is being used at one time. Often I hear complaints from parents like, ‘When I was her age, I spent all my time playing football with my neighbours, I’m not sure I like how my child is just sitting in front of the ipad with the TV on. She’s not even watching it.’
There is a growing view amongst parents that their children waste a lot of time on their mobile devices, whether it be downloading apps, playing online games or going on social media websites. Such activities are often seen as less preferable to experiences that are socially interactive on a day-to-day basis, such as having a conversation in person. Indeed, social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram now seem to be the preferred way to communicate, giving children what some critics argue are singular, isolated or ego-centred experiences. With the veil of anonymity offered by social media, cyber bullying has also been on the rise as children express themselves in ways that they would not do in face-to-face situations. This, coupled with the vast amount of inappropriate information that is readily accessible, parental concerns relating to the way children engage with technology are not completely unfounded.
Most parents agree that when technology is used appropriately, it can be an immensely enriching learning experiences. In the home, mobile devices have access to literally hundreds of apps at a touch of a button that can facilitate this. There is a great deal of choice out there, ranging from story books, phonics, Maths, drawing, spelling to mental arithmetic. However, apart from the learning aspects of these products, apps can provide social opportunities for parents to spend time with their child by playing the games/ app together. They are also useful tools for engaging children in a meaningful conversation about how to develop a healthy relationship with technology. Starting young and educating children about how to use the internet constructively and safely is key and could certainly alleviate some of the parental concerns felt today.
Most schools now have a policy on internet use and websites such as http://www.thinkuknow.co.uk are often used to educate children on different aspects of internet safety through age-appropriate games. For parents looking for more information on this, websites such as https://www.ceop.police.uk is a good place to start. Here at Owl Tutors, Judith has been developing a spelling app designed to be played by parent and child together. Once ready, the material will be made freely available for download so please do look out for it. At this initial stage of venturing into the app world, we are keen to hear your views of the app so do drop us a line with any feedback and thoughts.