Should children have a mobile or tablet from an early age on? Could that harm their development? The debate is on.
A few days ago, the Huffington Post published ten reasons why, in the opinion of the author of the article, these kinds of devices should not be used by children younger than 12. Among the reasons she mentioned was increasing child obesity, difficulties to sleep, the risk of becoming addicted, radiation and the uncontrolled use of technology.
Even though some of these arguments do not hold up against a closer look, Megan Eg-bert, an American teacher, decided to reply in her own blog by giving 10 reasons why she will continue to let her daughters use mobiles and tablets. But what good can children get out of using these devices? A lot, as we will discuss below.
These are the reasons Egbert provided in her article, we will take a closer look at some of them below:
1) Because banning things never, ever, ever works
2) Problem solving
3) Technology Skills
4) Expectations in school
6) Because I care about their brains
7) Girls. (Provide access to the technology world)
8) Balanced life
10) Reality: These devices are becoming more and more common
According to a study published by Common Sense Media at the end of 2013, 72% of american children under 8 had already used a smartphone or tablet sometime. Figures from 2011 counted only 38% of children that had used these kinds of devices at this age. According to the authors of the study, children today watch more or less the same amount of television as a few years ago, while more and more have access to mobiles: “We’re seeing a fundamental change in the way kids consume media”, claimed one of the authors.
In Spain the Protégeles association published its own report in february: Minors and Mobile Connectivity in Spain. In it, they state that 30% of Spanish ten year-olds have their own mobile and that even though they do not own one, children start using these devices even earlier: “2-3 year-old children habitually access the terminals of their parents”.
On occasion we have talked about the educational advantages of mobile devices here: They are elements that will be part of the digital future of classrooms (and in some case of the present) and we may even see the day when tablets substitute traditional text books. The advantages seem obvious: on a single device you can have access to unlimited knowledge including multimedia files that could never be displayed on paper. What is better, study about how a volcano erupts or see it in a demo video? A combination of both is certainly the best way.
In fact, tablets (when combined with specific applications) can also be very helpful to the education of children suffering from autism or having other learning difficulties. In the case of autism, CNN recently explained how these devices are tools not only to learn but also to give these children more autonomy. They told us the story of Leo, a boy with autism who organizes his day with an iPad.
Among the most frequent criticism brought up by people arguing to prohibit tablets for children is that their creativity would be diminished. But is that really so? Let us check that by looking at an example that Egbert quoted in her ten reasons: “One day she [her daughter] could not figure out how to draw a cat and I couldn’t either. Without even asking us she got her iPad, went to youtube, looked up tutorials on drawing cats and taught herself with the guidance of the tutorials. She is seven. She draws amazing cats now.”
Image | Brad Flicking-er
Obesity? Lack of physical activity? Like with everything, with the right measures and pa-rental guidance there should not be a problem. The Guardian talked to a nursery school which allows and encourages their children to use tablets. In one of their activities, the children go to the garden in pairs to take pictures using an iPad of all the different colors they can find. After that they fill a drawing prepared by the teacher with the pictures they took.
In the paragraph above we mentioned one of the keys: parental guidance. A tablet or a mobile should not be a “reward” that children are given when they behave well or, even worse, a distraction to calm them when they behave badly. These devices should be tools that support and complement their learning. Games? Yes, as well, but without losing sight of the tremendous amount of available apps and other educational resources.
From what age on is it a good idea to let a child use a tablet or a smartphone? There are the most diverse opinions on this matter. We wrote an article about it a few months ago, but there are new recent developments: The American Academy of Pediatrics states that, just like television and other screens, children should not have access before they are 2 years old. Protégeles does not agree: For them, the answer “is very simple: the sooner, the better, but always accompanied by the parents who should be deeply involved in the formation of their children.”
Society changes. That is a fact. Did your parents prohibit you to watch television because they did not have it during their childhood? The answer is probably no, even though they did not allow you to spend the entire day on the couch either. With mobile devices it is much the same: They are here to stay. Small children will get in touch with them as they grow up, like it or not. Why not make use of the advantages of a controlled environment and educate them from an early age in the right way to use them?
Image| Brad Flickinger
The mSchools programme is a multi-year, multi-faceted mEducation initiative by the Mobile World Capital Barcelona. The mSchools programme is designed to lower dropout rates, improve student attainment in schools across Catalonia and throughout Spain and, ultimately, to better prepare students as they pursue further education and employment in today’s digital world.
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