It's easy, in this day and age, to worry endlessly about the impact of technology on today's kids. I'm constantly wondering if I'm letting my kids have too much screen time, use too many apps that might be too advanced for them, and so much more. It's easy to forget that, as much as there are undeniable disadvantages to raising kids during the digital age, there are also lots of positive benefits.
For instance, my kids are learning Spanish. They go to a dual-language school and spend half their school day learning core curriculum in Spanish. It’s safe to say that they know more in elementary school about the Spanish language than either of their parents ever will! A few days ago, my 8-year-old was sitting on the couch in a blanket with popcorn, playing on her tablet. I assumed she was playing Roblox with her friends and was surprised when she told me she was “studying for school.” I asked her what that meant, exactly, and she said sometimes she forgets simple phrases in Spanish and was working on them via the DuoLingo app on her iPad. I was impressed!
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Sides of Technology
Like with most things, technology comes with both its ups and downs for kids. We’ve heard that too much screen time can contribute to obesity. We know that cyberbullying is negatively affecting young kids in countless ways. Certainly, technology, when consumed in excess and without restrictions, can be damaging to kids (and adults).
But technology can also be wonderful! I’m currently training for a half marathon with the help of the Peloton app. I communicate with my kids’ teachers via the SeeSaw app for classrooms. I manage my finances on my bank’s mobile app, I make doctor’s appointments and pay bills via my healthcare provider’s app and I keep up with friends around the world via the WhatsApp app. Who says technology has to be all bad?
The Benefits of Technology for Kids
There are plenty of positives that can come from kids using technology. As long as we, as parents, monitor activities and keep screen time to a minimum, there are plenty of good reasons to allow your kids time on the internet.
It encourages them to seek out information
We got an Alexa for Christmas (despite my protests. Thanks, Santa!), and, I have to admit, she has come in useful on more than one occasion. I could do without my kids having unlimited access to some of the world’s more annoying songs (cough, the Poop Song, cough), but, Alexa (and google in general) has come in handy more than a few times since she landed on my kitchen counter. Now, when my kids are curious, say, about Mars or Serena Williams or white chocolate (all things we have questioned her about recently!), my kids can get their questions answered right away. If a topic intrigues them, they can instantly ask for more information. Sometimes I hear my kids having fascinating conversations that stemmed from a simple question to Alexa and prompted them to keep asking questions that lead to a deep discussion.
The internet allows my girls to socialize with their friends
My kids love Kids Messenger and WhatsApp. And they love playing Roblox with friends. The internet allows them to connect with friends in a way we weren’t able to as kids. My oldest recently had a dear friend move to Colorado from Texas, and she was deeply sad she wouldn’t get to see her anymore. They keep in touch via Kids Messenger and play games there to connect and stay in contact despite their distance. Kids Messenger has been a godsend during the past year, when it would have been easy to disconnect from everything. Kids are social creatures and the internet encourages that behavior.
Kids can access eBooks and stories online through their local library or reading apps. This helps boost their cognitive abilities and helps them learn new words and how to pronounce them. They are also able to engage with foreign languages in a way that I did not as a kid (and I’m incredibly envious!). My girls have multiple apps they use to help them with homework and pronunciation and can easily find common phrases and words in more languages than I can count. So cool!
Sure, games such as Minecraft can seem pointless to adults (although don’t tell my husband that- he’s obsessed!), but these games actually help kids improve their problem-solving skills. In Minecraft, kids have to figure out how to stay alive, which forces kids to evaluate options and react quickly, both important lessons in the game and in life. Kids also play these games solo so they are taught to think for themselves, another important life lesson.
Computers are the Future- and our Kids are Going to be Well-Prepared
Like it or not, computers are the wave of the future. When I went to school, I was still hand-writing book essays and research papers. I didn’t learn to type properly until high school and still consider myself only marginally familiar with Microsoft Excel. My kids, however, are already computer whizzes. They can create full presentations in multiple apps, navigate learning sites, create spreadsheets and so much more. My oldest can do more with my iPhone than I can at this point. We’ve downloaded a few free coding programs for her to start learning the ins and outs of the hows of the internet, hoping it will set her up for a future in computer engineering! Whatever path she chooses, though, her dad and I know computers will be involved.
I always tell my girls that screen time is like chocolate. It is good, yes. But there is most certainly such a thing as too much! Find the balance that works for your life.