Notebooks, tablets and smart phones are all part of our everyday life. If your children are pre-school, they probably haven’t ever lived in an environment that is technology free. So, are these amazing pieces of kit a good thing? On the plus side, kids need to be able to use technology as it’s part of school life. There are some great learning apps and websites that offer excellent educational games to help even very young children develop. On the down side surveys show that over-reliance on tech gadgets to occupy young children can reduce their natural curiosity. They ask fewer questions and it can dumb down their imagination.
What is good parenting?As a parent this can produce a few challenges. Children see their friends using these gadgets and can feel they’re ‘missing out’ if they aren’t permitted to use them too. A total ban isn’t the answer. The secret is in teaching your child that the tablet or notebook is a tool which will help them, but not something that will replace live play. Of course, it’s easier to put a tablet in a child’s hand and know that they’ll be absorbed for long enough to finish that report for your boss or write a proposal for a client. If this is an occasional situation, it’s not a problem. It only becomes one when your child wants to play on the tablet from the moment they get up and you have to prise it from their hands before they go to bed.
- Show your child how to use a tablet to find things out – but don’t encourage them to play games for hours.
- Be available to your kids – ideally, if the family eats together at least once a day, this offers an ideal opportunity to talk to your kids and encourage them to ask questions.
- Read to your children to stimulate their imagination. Instil a love of stories that will give them pleasure for the rest of their lives.
- Encourage them to make up stories and help them to record their stories on paper or in pictures that they draw themselves. The creative right brain is more engaged when a pencil or crayon is in the hand than when a touch-screen or keyboard is being used (which is more mechanical, left-brain activity).
- Treat computer games in the same way as sweets. One or two, now and then, are OK, but bingeing on sugar (or computer games) is not good for anyone.
- Have tech free periods or allow technology to be used during specified times only.
- Make time for your kids. Technology doesn’t replace a parent.