Rangi Krishnan

Technology For Youngsters

11 October 2013

This month (so far), I have been focused on promoting my android apps; in particular, the two interactive children's books, Seesaw Kitty Seesaw Kittyand Kitty ConundrumKitty Conundrum. What makes them different is that they are not ebooks. They are actual applications. As such, they take a lot more work to create and they are designed specifically for android tablets.

However, all this aside, there is an underlying issue concerning the use of technology by children, especially under the age of 5 years. This is always a touchy subject and, in the course of my promotional activities, I have seen views expressed from one extreme to the other. Bear in mind also that this issue has been around since Adam was cowboy or at the very least, since they invented the television.

There is considerable research on this subject with some clearly advocating no exposure while others downplay the effects on young brains. I'm not going to spell out all this research as a simple trawl through the internet will give you plenty to look at. However, if you need a place to start, Living Montessori Now has references to various articles and research.

tech toys
In any case, there were two things that appeared to sum it all up for me. The first was a TED talk by Dimitri Christakis where he talked about media and children. You can see the video on YouTube here. A child's brain, particularly during the first two years, undergoes massive development of neural pathways. Under-stimulation results in poor development while over-stimulation creates behavioural issues. It was also interesting to see how over-stimulation makes it difficult for the subject to retain information about places visited. The over-stimulation occurred as a result of rapid scene changes when viewing media.

The second was an article referencing a piece of research which you can find here. To sum up, the article stated: "... her research found 85 per cent of the apps purchased for their children were just "drill and practice" games that asked children to repeat an action or remember simple facts. Such apps lead to lower-level neural development and often include excessive rewarding that can create unrealistic expectations in children."

My kids are in their late teens but they remind me everyday that their world is quite different from the one I grew up in and no doubt, the same will be true of the next generation. Avoiding technology altogether is not really an answer, at least not in my view, as studies also show familiarity helps to encourage further exploration. Becoming familiar with the tools of today may eventually help them to move on and develop the tools of tomorrow.

What does all this mean? In a nutshell, avoid apps that involve rapid scene changes and apps that are "drill and practice" games. It's all about the pace at which things happen for the little ones and setting the stage to develop their imagination. Books, whatever the medium, are generally a safe bet and they tend to leave plenty of room for the imagination, which I can assure you, they have in abundance.


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