What’s the easiest way to keep your children occupied in this day and age? Shove an iPad into their hands of course. According to The Guardian, from a study performed by the Tech and Play organization, approximately 31% of children in the United Kingdom under five years old own an iPad or a similar type of tablet. This percentage does not include children who use a shared family tablet, children who are only allowed to use a tablet for educational purposes, or children who have special needs that require them to use a tablet.
It is slightly alarming how young children are when they are exposed to technology as a primary form of entertainment nowadays. Sure, technology can have many benefits for children. Learning how to use technology is an integral part of a child’s education, especially in this increasingly digital world. Technology skills are only going to grow more important in the future, and it can be beneficial that today’s children are learning these skills early. Moreover, technology can further a child’s education in other areas. Interactive learning apps and educational games can make learning fun for children and encourage them to learn on their own in addition to the education they receive at school. In reality, however, many young children do not use their tablets for educational purposes. Rather than learning useful technology skills that they can one day use in the workforce, they mostly just get really good at playing Candy Crush and Angry Birds. This also means that they’re most likely not using their tablets to practice math or reading.
According to the same study by Tech and Play, about 35% of the children under five who own a tablet use their tablets mostly in the absence of an adult. Children who play with tablets without adult supervision are less likely to use their tablets for educational purposes since they have no authority figures encouraging them to do so. Since a good portion of young children who own tablets are also unsupervised while using their tablets, one may also wonder about the nature of the content these children have access to and/or may be exposed to without adult supervision. Even the approximately 57% of children who are supervised by adults still mostly end up playing popular games on their tablets rather than receiving any educational benefits from their technological devices.
Too much exposure to technology as a form of entertainment in a child’s early years can also have more profound effects, namely diminishing a child’s creativity and imagination. During childhood is usually when one cultivates his imaginary and creativity skills. In previous generations, children would have to come up with creative ways to entertain themselves, encouraging them to think outside the box and brainstorm ideas with one another. Now, it’s easy. A child simply has to unlock his iPad and a world of fun games appears right at his fingertips. A child no longer has to come up with ways to entertain himself; some app or game creator has already done that for him. His handheld device allows him to take the easy way out when it comes to something as simple as entertaining himself. In addition, constantly playing with technology can promote a sedentary lifestyle amongst youth. Why go outside and throw a softball around with your friends when you have this awesome softball simulator game on your iPad, right?
Ultimately, technology is a wonderful phenomenon. It is the foundation of our current and future worlds and has allowed society to progress thus far. We, however, should not teach our children to be completely dependent upon technology for something as simple as entertainment. We must encourage our children to explore the depths of their imaginations and be free thinkers. In addition, there are many beneficial ways in which children can use technology. As the world becomes increasingly digital, it is evident that the leaders of the future are going to have to be technologically fluent. Overall, children should be exposed to technology as a form of entertainment in moderation. Parents should limit the amount of time children spend using technological devices for entertainment purposes. Our children are way more creative than we give them credit for. They most definitely can get through playtime without an iPad.