Our children are growing up in the fast-moving digital age.
Our children are growing up watching television, loving shows like Barney, Sesame Street, Baby Einstein, Dora the Explorer, Spongebob Squarepants and many more. They’re growing up learning the alphabet with Elmo using the iPad. They’re growing up learning to use a smartphone before they can even talk.
There is much dialogue about the extent of technology our children are immersed in, whether voluntarily, as permitted by their parents, or involuntarily, where they’re surrounded by these things when they go to school, to a mall, or even, their friends’ homes.
My son is 17.5 months old, and he can operate the television remote control. He knows how to activate my Android phone by swiping the lock key from left to right with his finger. Similarly, he knows how to use the iPad’s touchscreen with his ever handy finger – swiping the screen, pressing on the relevant applications, even pressing the Home button to exit an application.
Before long, he’ll be programming his own software.
Alright, that’s exaggeration, but truly, sometimes I worry that I’m allowing my child to be too involved in the digital world. I don’t even want to think about him being old enough to get on the computer and start using the Internet. That’s another world out there, and another post in the future!
However, I do not want to deny him of any of the technology I mentioned earlier. It is inevitable that as he gets older, he will be doing more of television watching, iPad playing and smartphone usage.
The trick here, is to get right, the balance of these activities, with traditional activities all children should be involved in. I want to ensure that my son is physically, mentally, emotionally and socially stimulated with the right tools.
He is at an age where his physical movements are fast improving – walking, running, climbing, jumping. His language skills are accelerating, adding more and more words to his burgeoning vocabulary, talking is second nature now. Emotionally, he has on occasion thrown temper tantrums when he does not get his way. He is learning to be aware of others, to share, to be jealous, to be anxious when separated from me, or his father. He is learning to potty train fully, to sleep on his own. He is learning to be independent.
He is learning, learning, learning.
Remember when we were toddlers? When we were kids? When we were teenagers?
How did we learn?
We played in the sandbox to learn about textures. We learned to stack blocks. We learned to sort shapes with shape sorter toys. We played with water, using cups and other vessels to learn about volume. We learned to open and close lids on boxes, to remove and replace objects in those boxes. We learned to draw with crayons on paper. We learned to read with picture books. We played with doll houses, train sets, jigsaw puzzles, board games. We played on swings, see saws and merry-go-rounds.
Nowadays, toddlers can learn to count, learn to say the ABCs, learn to draw, learn their first words and recognize animal sounds, all on the iPad. At the touch of a screen, you can download all kinds of applications for your child. It is amazing, and a little scary.
Children’s television programs are abundant. From educational to entertaining, there is a variety out there. I do not claim to be the kind of parent who denies my son television. I admit, he does get some television time in a day. He may not sit in a trance like a couch potato to watch ‘Elmo’s World’, but the TV is on in the background most mornings.
The key here is balance.
We want him to learn how to navigate the digital world. We also want him to play with traditional toys. We let him watch some television, but we also make sure he goes outside and plays with swings, slides, monkey bars, and get some fresh air. We let him play with the piano application on the iPad, but we also ensure he plays with the actual toy piano, one he can touch, feel the keys. How the keys give under the light pressure of his fingers.
When he’s older, we will eventually let him spend time on a laptop when he’s much older, but we will also want him to learn how to use his hands, like fix a motorcycle, as his father loves off-road biking.
As parents, we need to be the ones who strike the right balance for our children. Good luck to you. And to me!
Are you concerned about the amount of technology your children are involved in? How do you ensure the right balance of television, computer games and the Internet, with more traditional means of play and entertainment?
This has been an original post to World Moms Blog by Alison Lee in Kuala-Lumpur, Malaysia. She can also be found blogging at Mama Wants This!
Photo credit to the author.