What do experts say about children and technology?

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Here’s some advice from a few experts on how you should mix technology with your children.

Get engaged
Don’t give an
iPad or other such tablet device to
a child under four for the purpose
of keeping them occupied, says
Michaela Wooldridge, clinical supervisor for a home-visiting early
intervention program in Vancouver and a PhD student at the University of
British Columbia researching how technology affects infant and toddler
development. “Toddlers and infants need
to have a lot of hands-on, real world,
3D, multi-sensorial experiences
to build up their brains literally,
physically as well as experientially.”
Tablets, she says, don’t teach
fi ne motor skills and can’t carry a
conversation with your child. She
urges parents to get involved with
their child’s technology and make it
a learning tool, which will help them
function in a technological world.
Buy ‘apps’ that promote creativity,
that offer your child control, that are
open-ended (a music program or a
drawing program), and that prompt
your child to reason and strategize.

Don’t let it monopolize your child

Jennifer Pinder’s fouryearold
son Hunter
is adept on the iPad, a gift from his paternal
grandfather. It wasn’t her choice but now that
that the electronic cat is out of the bag, she’s
vetted more than 50 games and apps – phonics,
math, doodling – and he’s limited to 60 minutes
a day. “It’s all in moderation and he still enjoys
playing outside,” she says. However, it can be a
challenge. Once, while visiting relatives, Jennifer
noted that Hunter was playing with his iPad, and
only his iPad. “It was him, sitting on the couch,
but he wasn’t playing with his toys or socializing
with his aunts,” she said. Since then, the iPad
stays in the Pinder’s Hamilton, Ont., home if they
go to someone’s house or a restaurant.

Don’t use it as a
boredom buster

Getting bored is a
valuable experience,
says Caroline Knorr,
parenting editor at
Common Sense Media,
a nonprofit organization
in San Francisco. Kids
need to learn how to self
soothe. “If they can’t
sit still in a restaurant,
deploy those digital
distractions very
carefully knowing that
it is good for kids to
develop patience.”

Don’t use it in
place of real-life

Helen Ofosu, founder of
I/O Psychology Advisory
Services in Ottawa,
doesn’t want her 10yearold
son to grow up glued
to video games or his
iPod headphones. She
suggests delaying access
to handheld devices
until age six because “if
they get mesmerized by
that screen, you’ll have a
hard time getting them
to enjoy the reallife
version of things and
the outdoors.” When
children and parents
are on their dedicated
devices, she said, there
are fewer opportunities
for a shared collective
experience. “I want
his main memories to
revolve around whom he
spent his time with and
what he did with them.”

In her spare time Amber Nasrulla Googles topnotch
design schools for her son.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, August/September 2013.

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