Recently, tests have concluded that the Apple iPad is the best all-round tablet for children, champing the Lexibook First Tablet and the Arnova Childpad, as well as others. An article in Wired Magazine explains some of the testing procedures that were applied to conclude such results. The article by Simon Munk, titled “Test: Best Tablet Computers For Children Reviewed”, can provide some insight into the pros and cons of the iPad, and why it may be the best for children to use, but I’m wondering if a piece of crisp technology is really what children need.
There was a time when children used to play in the street, or go to the pack to ride their bikes or kick a ball. Children would interact with one another, make new friends, and stay out until the sun went down. Granted, though, the world is a bit more dangerous on the streets these days than it was ten or twenty years ago, and with technology expanding so rapidly, why not use the gadgets and devices that are at our fingertips? Technology has been very beneficial in bringing information readily to those who need a quick recipe for dinner, or those who need to send a quick email because the phone line is busy. But, is letting children have access to such gadgets benefiting them in the same way that it benefits adults or teenagers?
Young children don’t need to worry about cooking dinner, or sending emails. So what benefit could technology possibly bring to young children? The answer that comes to mind is brain training, or learning activities. The iPad has many fantastic – and even cool – educational apps, such as Reading Raven, Maths Castle and Kids Crosswords, and these programs could teach a lot of basics to young children before they even get to school. Technology, in this regard, in doing young children a favour. However, there is a dark side of technology. It is when this dark side comes into contact with the unsocial child, that there is a problem.
Advertisers always portray children with technology as happy and vibrant. A recent Apple billboard depicts an iPad with a finger tracing letters, and hence implying the iPad is a vessel for learning the alphabet. Naturally, an advertiser wants to depict the best experience possible, in order to sell the product, so they would never advertise images like this:
[screaming kid with iPad]
But it should be noted, that kids and technology don’t always go hand-in-hand. While it is important for children to learn basic maths, and how to spell, among other things, children also need to learn how to be patient, how to interact with other people, and to get exercise. Some children – once absorbed by the awe of technology – cannot let go of their amazing gadgets, and/or are not encouraged by their parents to engage in other activities. Children should not be allowed to get the idea that technology is their whole world – however significant technology may be.
While technology is fast, so information is easily accessible, in being so, also promotes impatience. If kids cannot learn to wait for something to load on a screen, how will they learn to wait anything? As they grow up, will they need to have the latest gadget immediately, or a response from a job agency instantly?
Technology can be wonderful, but if not encouraged, will children learn to take a break from the screen, to interact with other children? And as they grow up, will they not be afraid to approach their teacher or their boss?
Bad habits can be formed easily, and can be hard to break from.
Is technology doing children more harm than good? If so, perhaps Apple is best in moderation.