Tech Savvy Tots: How Young Is Too Young?

Technology has taken the inevitable leap towards a younger target market and experts are urging parents to monitor and limit their children’s usage of electronic devices. These young children are growing up alongside parents who blog on a daily basis, share family photos on Facebook and are constantly connected through their mobile phones so it’s no wonder that their habits are becoming contagious.

A recent study conducted by Research Now for security company AVG found that 84% of Canadian children have an online presence by the time they are two years old. More than one-third of Canadian mothers posted photos of newborns online and another 37 percent said they’d posted sonograms of their as-yet unborn child. What’s even worse? Eight percent of Canadian moms had given their baby a social network profile on a site like Facebook.

While these behaviors are most likely stemmed from good intention (ex sharing photos with family and friends that live far away), no one is sure what it means for the children with profile pages and photos floating around online before they even turn five. The rate at which technology is holding parents and their children captivated has educators and parenting experts worried.

How many times have you been to the mall and seen an eight-year-old girl with a cell phone? How many of your younger cousins or siblings have their hearts set on an iPod Touch for Christmas? Realistically, technology is becoming more user-friendly and companies are realizing that children are the wave of the future. Imagine presenting a child with an iPod at a young age; that child will be much more likely to remain brand loyal for the rest of his future purchases because of his early influence.

The problem, according to Professional Parenting founder Judy Arnall, is that the research on the effects of this technology on children is not available yet, it’s happening too fast to be studied. Of greatest concern to the Calgary parenting educator are the hand-held, portable devices such as the iPod Touch, or the Nintendo DS.

The iPod Touch has thousands of downloadable apps that preach developmental pros for children such as teaching them to count, spell, add, or even learn a new language. This new direction combined with the device’s overall appeal and popularity is proving to have a big influence on parents who want to believe that the devices are educational and beneficial. Many experts worry that these devices are seductive to the point of children preferring them above all else. Technology can be very addictive and marketing techniques/campaigns make certain devices seem seductive to the public, which is where the problem takes root. Toddlers are growing up with the belief that an iPad is as indispensible as Lego bricks or Barbie dolls.

There is no doubt that these technological learning devices have a place in a child’s routine but experts say they can’t be the only option. The fact is that children learn best when they engage all five of their senses but screens limit that experience to hearing and sight. Parents need to limit usage and ensure their children have human interaction and a hands-on-environment that welcomes brain growth and development. As for the social network pages one can only hope that parents can strike a fine balance when it comes to sharing content about their children online.


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