Reflections on Technology's Impact on Kids

February 7, 2013

Baby using an iPad.

A few questions I’ve been thinking about regarding technology and young people:

How is computer/media use affecting school performance?

What about thinking skills and creativity?

What are kids spending their time on the computer doing, aside from homework? Is the time being used productively?

Is America’s academic “ranking”  tied to computer use or not?

I found a few articles discussing aspects of these ideas. (Disclaimer- I do like technology, I just think it needs to be used in line with other priorities and goals. )

The first article (NYTimes) claims that a new digital divide has developed where lower-income kids are spending more of their time playing games and using social media than their better off counterparts. Vicky Rideout, author of the decade-long Kaiser study says,“Instead of closing the achievement gap, they’re widening the time-wasting gap.” If this continues, what will be the outcome?

moshiAnother interesting article from The Guardian investigates the nature of play in terms of computers and notes the familiarity that even very small children have with devices. She speaks to the creator of Moshi Monsters  (a website offering customized pet monsters and games) and some experts about the learning process and why certain games are successful or not. The author is trying to understand to what extent she wants her son playing these games and how they affect him.

As she says, “Is any of this beneficial? I have no idea. He really enjoys playing his games, but he also really enjoys stuffing his face with white sugar lumps and I don’t encourage that. … According to Dr Livingstone, there are two common areas of worry for parents. First: how long their child spends playing games. Second: the content of those games.’ Valid points are raised about the nature of what kids are playing and which skills are worthwhile obtaining.

The article on creativity from the Washington Post discusses various ideas about play and how computer play is lacking. The author mentions how her granddaughter constructed a house for a caterpillar in the park,  something that could not be done on a computer. She advocates less time with the computer as a babysitter and more hands-on creative play and parental involvement. She definitely takes a more negative stance.

Yet another piece from the HuffPost reviews the subject of American academic progress, or lack of it, compared to other countries. True, it does not focus on technology as a root cause, but rather places the blame on less funding. However, I would venture to guess that kids who are on Facebook or online gaming for many hours a week are not as invested in their studies. The article claims that studies show that proportionately American students are not keeping up scholastically with other nations and achieving “middling” progress.

No simple solution is evident, and as one article pointed out, technology keeps moving ahead so quickly there is not much research to fall back on for strategic planning. Each family must consider their own situation to figure out how to balance the issues and their children’s needs.

Shira S.


Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.

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