The other morning, I randomly found a photograph online that I found both adorable, and slightly troubling.
After the initial response, “oh how cute!” I delved a little deeper. How old is this child? Two? Is that his personal laptop, or his parents’? Is he being supervised, looking at educational software, or merely surfing the net? I realize some individuals may look at this photograph and say how clever it is that that child’s parents decided to introduce him to technology so early. Personally, I’m torn. Do children, specifically children under the age of five, need to be on the computer? Anyone who has ever spent time with young children knows that they are incredibly active. They wriggle, bounce, run, roll, crawl, and climb, all in the time it takes us to take a deep breath! I find it difficult to imagine these jumping beans sitting in front of a computer screen. However, according to the small amount of research I’ve done, the number of very young children who are being introduced to computers is increasing at an outrageous rate. This trend is driven not only by eager parents who want their children on the cutting edge of technology but also by computer software and toy manufacturers; churning out products for younger and younger children.
Computer use by infants and toddlers is the subject of ongoing debate among child development specialists and educators, and I believe it should be. Advocates claim that introducing very young children to computers gives them an intellectual advantage. They believe computer programs designed for toddlers can strengthen problem-solving abilities, increase hand-eye coordination, and stimulate their developing minds. Other experts are more skeptical. Too-early exposure may have harmful consequences on a child’s development. In a Family and Child Ecology course, I took at a previous time, I had a professor whom believes the fast-paced visuals, startling noises, and silly scenarios, are stimuli that divert the brain away from its natural developmental tasks. For my part, I find that opinion rather extreme.
I believe the best choice for parents, at this point, is to proceed with caution. I think there are many advantages to providing technology to young children (as long as it is in some way educational) such as: helping toddlers learn shapes, colors, letters, and numbers. But by no means should it be used as a replacement to human interactions, or learning toys like blocks, sandboxes, or crayons. Yes, technology is an important aspect of our rapidly changing world, but lets keep things in perspective, okay?