Technology and Tots: How to Find a Balance

shutterstock_186014741Thanks to the popularity of easy-to-use of electronic devices like iPads and smartphones, children are becoming comfortable with technology at a very young age. While most parents aren’t giving their kindergarteners the latest iPhone 6, it’s pretty common to see 5-year-olds happily playing games on smartphones and tablets.

Although we are impressed with the way a kindergartener can pick up a tablet and become an expert at using it in a matter of minutes, we probably wonder at times how to balance the use of such amazing technology with other activities. And while computer literacy is a useful skill, how much is too soon when it comes to little kids?

First, some of the pros

Young children benefit from using technology in a variety of tangible ways. For example, swiping their finger across the screen will cause a character to move, teaching them cause and effect. In addition, manipulating game pieces and letters around the screen can help with hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, What to Expect notes.

There are also plenty of apps and websites that help children boost their knowledge about subjects that interest them. As Global Student Network notes, kindergartners who love animals can watch their favorite animals via Web cams thanks to an app from the National Zoological Park, and sites like iWin include plenty of educational games that kids can play either by themselves or with their mom or dad. A lot of the apps and games encourage kids to learn problem-solving skills, and others teach beginning reading and spelling skills in an interesting and appealing way.

Next, some of the cons

While many games and apps are technically interactive, in many cases kindergartners play by themselves. This can potentially interfere with getting enough time talking and playing with actual people, not little colorful characters on the screen. Also, kids who seem to be glued to their electronic devices are missing out on the opportunity to experience the world in more tangible and hands-on ways, like building castles in the sand pit at the park, figuring out how to get the wooden train track pieces fit together, and coloring with good old-fashioned crayons. Since apps and online games are typically played sitting down, kids who spend a lot of time on a tablet might not be getting enough physical activity, which can lead to weight gain. Finally, the bright colors and engaging graphics that make apps so appealing can be a double-edged sword at times; young kids might get overwhelmed by the sounds and sights of their favorite apps and it might be hard for them to unwind and relax their brains at bedtime.

Tips on finding a balance

In order to make sure young kids are benefiting from technology, parents and teachers alike can implement some rules to help create a healthy balance. As Parents suggests, young children should really be monitored pretty closely to be sure that they are not getting too overwhelmed and also to prevent them from accidentally stumbling onto games or other apps that might contain scary content. Although it might be tempting to let your kindergartener play on a tablet for awhile so you can get some things done around the house, try to stay nearby and discuss with them what they are doing and seeing. Another terrific way to balance technology with the amazing things that life has to offer is to limit screen time to a certain amount every day. To do this, parents might want to first keep a running tally on just how much time their kids are spending every day in front of a screen — the total amount might be surprising. How much screen time do you think is appropriate for young children?

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