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How Does Technology Affect Child Development: The Good and the Bad

We don’t use technology here in the classrooms at Kids’ Care Club, but it’s likely your child has a screen involved in their life in some way, whether it be a tablet or stealing your phone away to play an interactive game. When used intentionally and appropriately, technology and interactive media are excellent, effective tools for supporting your child’s learning and development. When overused, they have the power to negatively affect your child’s social skills and ability to focus. 

Let’s explore the good and the bad of technology.

 

Benefits of Technology 


two preschoolers playing with a tablet

There are numerous ways that technology can positively impact both our lives and those of our children. It all depends on how and when the technology is used. 

Boosts Creativity 

In the preschool years, children are satiating their curiosity and sense of creativity through a variety of media, such as crayons, paints, and dramatic play. Digital technology can serve as another outlet for them to use this creativity and learning. Through technology, children can explore different areas they have an interest in, such as playing instruments, creative writing, or beginner programs related to various subjects. There are a ton of different apps for all different ages for technology to foster creativity and learning new skills. In fact, studies have shown that preschool children’s use of tablets and technology can help support a playful and creative practice if not replacing other learning materials. 

Relationship Building 

Technology can foster connection by allowing kids to stay in touch with family members or friends that don’t live close by. They can interact with others in their age group while playing games, helping them learn to play as a team. 

It can support STEM learning 

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) learning focuses on teaching the next generation the skills and knowledge that they’ll need for the future. Incorporating the use of technology can help preschool-aged children develop the skills they need to succeed as they dive into more STEM learning and challenges that lie in their schooling ahead. 

We highly recommend NAEYC’s guidance on the effective implementation of media and technology to learn more about setting healthy boundaries with technology for children from infancy to school age. 

Risks of Technology Use mom and child looking at tablet

When overused, technology can negatively impact your preschooler’s social skills, relationships, health, and overall ability to focus. 

Social Skills 

Any parent knows the beauty of distraction and how it can help distract a toddler having a tantrum. With cell phones always within arm’s reach, technology is always a pertinent distraction. While handling over the phone may soothe a raging preschooler,  the American Academy of Pediatrics warns parents about the distraction of mobile devices and their ability to negatively affect children’s opportunity to learn how to self-soothe and regulate in moments of distress. Ready at their fingertips, children can turn to technology as a coping mechanism and diversion from troubling issues when faced with issues at school, family arguments, or other stressful situations. 

Alternatively, overuse of technology can result in negligence to social interactions. After all, developing social skills takes practice. The distracting nature of much screen-based technology can result in children not navigating these social skills to navigate their interpersonal relationships. As a result, they may develop poorer social skills and be less adept in problem-solving with their peers long term.  

Alternatively, technology can be used as a coping mechanism and serve as a diversion from troubling issues. Children can turn to distractions at their fingertips when facing issues like not fitting in at school, parents arguing at home, and more.  

Relationships

Oftentimes, the virtual reality of devices is more appealing and entertaining than their physical environment. Overuse of technology can help children get used to being alone, and they can lose the desire to engage with their parents or friends outside of technology. 

Health Problems 

Overuse of technology can stagnant physical activity for your little one. After all, time spent with technology means time spent sitting! Even with portable devices, active indoor or outdoor playtime has largely been replaced by sedentary activity. Make sure that technology doesn’t replace your child’s opportunities to ride their tricycles, play jump rope, and have fun outside. 

Outside of physical health, spending a lot of time on devices can result in a reduced attention span. Research suggests that technology exposure may change the way children’s brains are wired. In using an abundance of technology, a child’s brain may adapt to frequent visual stimulation, rapid change, and have little need for imagination. In contrast, spending more time reading, simply imagining, or participating in activities can result in your child’s brain requiring more focused attention. 

Set Boundaries

Technology isn’t a problem when used in moderation. However, the numbers suggest that most haven’t found a balance and use technology far higher than the recommended limit. Remember that even in the hands of parents and caregivers, technology has an impact. Children learn through observation and imitation, and this especially carries over to technology use. Rampant screen time seeps away intentionally, connecting time together, something that is critical for their development in our busy lives. 

As your child grows older and is exposed to more technology, make sure to check in, communicate, and set healthy digital boundaries so that the time they spend playing, interacting with their friends, and exploring their interests isn’t replaced with screens. These interpersonal interactions are vital to fostering empathy, problem-solving skills, curiosity, intelligence, and listening. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children have no exposure to technology before the age of 2 and a limited 1-2 hours per day with entertainment media. To move forward in a healthy direction, we need to set an example and pursue a balance for our children, capitalize on the benefits of technology, and alleviate the negative effects that lie at our fingertips. 

Additional Resources

Find more information and tools on our.  Parent Resources page »

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