Recently I’ve come across quite a few blog posts about children using technology. I’ve been reading these wise words and the follow on comments with interest, trying to articulate where, exactly, I stand on this subject.
Technology is part of our family’s every day life. My children see me use the computer almost every day, for lots of different things, including communication, entertainment, information and as work tool, for earning money. Technology such us computers, the internet, mobile phones. digital cameras and DVD players etc, permeates our daily lives here at the Pickle Farm, which I believe is good and bad both for the adults and the children.
The use of technology for all of us, needs to be tempered with understanding and moderation.
I don’t believe that a young child (and for the purpose of this post I’m talking about preschool aged children – under fives, though I’d be inclined to stretch that to under sevens on some points also) needs to be exposed to technology. I don’t believe you will be hindering your child’s development, or that they will be ‘left behind’ if they don’t know how to log on to a computer by age of three, or five, or seven.
When computers, or whatever new and wonderful technology comes along next, becomes important and interesting to them, they will learn, and learn fast, the skills needed to take part in these activities. Why rush our children into technology when they already seem to have so little time just to play and explore? The time to start using technology with our kids is when they show an active interest in doing so.
I also believe that, like television, too much, or the wrong kind of exposure to technology (especially computers and computer games) is not a good thing.
Young children learn best by doing. They learn by experiencing, experimenting and manipulating real, tangible, physical objects in an active, real-life way. Sitting in front of a screen, be it TV or computer screen, for long periods is a passive, abstract activity, it can not compete with hands on experiences when it comes to learning opportunities.
That is not to say technology and young children should never ever meet. There are lots of really fabulous ways of using technology with young children that are meaningful and real and really add to their learning and enjoyment.
Some cool ways we use technology with the pickle kids….
Nothing replaces writing or receiving a real letter in your letter box, but writing an email together or sending a photo is another wonderful way to connect to friends and family.
As SquiggleMum has already pointed out – Google is a fabulous tool for finding out all sorts of things.
We also use the internet to find out things like when the swimming pool or library will be open (why can I never remember that?) and to look up their online catalogue to see if they have the books we want, or to see if there are any ballets coming up at the Arts Centre that we’d like to attend.
Again, nothing can replace creating with real art supplies, making a mess and enjoying the process, but my girls also enjoy creating using the computer as a tool. Tux Paint is a free kids paint program and we use it not only to create pictures but also to write/type with, making up stories to print etc.
All three children also use our digital cameras to take their own photos. The girls have requested their own cameras for their birthdays and have big plans to cover their bedroom walls with photos of all the things they love! We’ve also used the camera and related technology together to make cards gifts and books – this past Christmas everyone got a home made recipe book, complete with scanned in drawings.
We don’t have a lot of bandwidth (thanks telstra for your sucky service and huge prices for those in the country) so we don’t do much downloading, but there are a handful of resources that we love. Story Nory is our favourite site to download spoken stories to listen to at bed time! We’ve downloaded writing lines and graph paper for our drawing cupboard, as well as the Victorian cursive script font – the same print style the girls learn at school.
Enjoyment and Educational Games
We have a wii and occasionally all like to laugh together while we play. The girls also enjoy one or two ‘educational games’ every now and then and now that the girls are at school and focussing a little more on passive learning they’ve also had a go at starfall.com and we are thinking about reading eggs – but once again our lack of bandwidth means this is only ever done now and again – or when we are at the grandparents!
As with all things to do with young children the key is supervision and limits.
Our kids sit next to us on their ‘old computer’ and work on tux paint while I work on my computer so I am right there to help them, or guide them and so I know exactly what they are doing. Even as they get older this is still our plan. We’ve planned our renovations to include a study off the family living space with a large slide-able wall, so that our children are not tucked away in secret while using the computer, they are still part of family life and I am more easily able to supervise.
I am no saint when it comes to technology and children. I am guilty of using the computer screen as a baby sitter on occasion, and for far too long, but in an ideal world there are limits to how much time is spent in front of the screen.
There are even limits for me… even I need to be reminded (probably more so than the kids) that there is much more to learn and experience than when I sit in front of the computer!