In an effort to keep up with my tech-savvy patients and their parents, I read a study from a well-known software maker that confirmed something we all know: are kids are extremely wired.
The company solicited 2,200 mothers to answer a survey looking at skills their children have; such as riding a bike or tying a shoe as well as those very important early childhood skills such as how to use an I-Pad or Smartphone. 21% of four-five year olds knew how to use a Smartphone or I-pad application, only 14% of those same kids could tie their shoes.
For children two–five years old, 69% could operate a computer mouse, 58% could play a computer game but only 52% knew how to ride a bike. Seems incredible to me that more kids have computers than bicycles? 25% of two-five year olds could open a Web browser, only 20% knew how to swim. Technology is definitely changing the world, but is it all beneficial?
The company's CEO commissioned the survey to show how young children are interacting with technology. He emphasized that parents need to be educating their young children about their online world and need to be promoting internet/online safety at very young ages. It used to be “when do I have the sex talk” now it is being replaced with ”how soon do I need to talk about online safety and technology?”.
The most disturbing aspect of this study is that it suggests that our children are way too wired and may be missing out on simple, yet important life skills.
I myself have seen many a two year old open their parent’s iPad and turn on a movie while in the exam room. They can recognize different icons and switch between applications but are not yet capable of talking in complete sentences. Some of these children are the same ones who at two years, are not yet putting themselves to sleep at night, cannot sleep through the night and still have a bottle or pacifier!
Some parents are convinced that their child may not be capable of mastering these normal developmental milestones, while at the same time are thrilled about their child’s computer skills. This seems a little mixed up to me. Priorities sometimes get confused.
Technology is important and will continue to be so, but what if the computer is “down” and you need to write a story with pencil and paper, or draw a picture without the benefit of a computer screen? There are certainly many life skills to be mastered; riding a bike, pumping a swing and playing catch.
The race to teach kids technology and to help them compete in our constantly “wired” world may be detrimental to a child’s physical and emotional health. All parents need to remember to “turn off the technology” and get back to basics. There is time for both.