The world of the electronic device

The world of the electronic device

20% of parents use a mobile devise to keep their child entertained*

This year parents are under increasing pressure to buy their child an electronic device for Christmas. Even pre-schoolers are asking for the latest interactive media. Yet at $600 a pop, iPhones, iPads and iPods are not toys.

So what dilemmas might parents consider when deciding if new technologies are the way to go this Christmas?

All those in favour say “i”

  • These electronic devices are very good at keeping children quiet and entertained.
  • Lots of the applications available today are very educational.
  • Children need to have access to the latest technologies so they are not disadvantaged at pre-school or school.

All those against the “i”

  • Children can retreat into their own world and shut reality out as they become absorbed in the world on screen.
  • These devices take children away from imaginative and outdoor play.
  • Removing or limiting the use of a gadget can lead to tantrums and bad moods (early signs of addiction here).
  • The child’s attention is on the device and they don’t fully interact with their parents.
  • It can become very easy for parents to stick a piece of technology in a child’s hand rather than taking time out to interact with them.

But of course like all things it is a case of balance, and it is this balance that is increasing hard to strike as more and more applications and games are now aimed at children and the age targeted is dropping all the time, with white noise generators for babies and Disney’s new Cars game for the iPad.

How to spot an educational App
According to i-TUNES there are over 20,000 educational Apps available. But of course, like with all media, not all Apps are created equal.

Here are some websites and blogs to help navigate the Apps mine field:
www.teacherswithapps.com– Founded by two teachers this site reviews educational apps, under the premise that they are the tools of the future, if used responsibly.
www.adesontheweb.com – This site posts reviews of apps being used by Apple Distinguished Educators; searchable by name or grade level.
www.momswithapps.com – Moms with Apps is a collaborative group of family-friendly developers seeking to promote quality apps for kids and families.
ictece.blogspot.com – This NZ blog focuses on issues relating to children and teachers using Information and Communication Technology in education.

Reasons why not to buy new media for kids

They are expensive
iPads, iPhones and iPods are an expensive piece of technology. The average price tag for these kinds of items is $500.

They are not toys
Items like the iPad aren’t toys and can’t be thrown around or man handled like a favourite doll. One drop from the kitchen table and the screen of an iPad is likely to shatter.

No MS Word Support
If there’s one software function that school-ages kids really need, it’s the ability to type a paper for school. Unfortunately, the iPad does not support MS Word, which is by far the most popular word processing program. So the family computer still has a few years left in it!

Where did you put that?
Children loose things easily. In a moment’s distraction they put something down and then forget it. Most interactive media is designed to be sleek, slim line and above all compact. They are not easy to find once lost.

A great distraction
Given the choice, most kids would rather play games than do their homework. With so many Applications available and games to download it is easy for young people to become both distracted and addicted. For some, iPads and iPhones are just too tempting.
 
What are they looking at?
All these devices are mobile, so it is very hard to monitor what your child is actually looking at. The internet is easily available and parental controls are very difficult to enforce. The family PC however gives parents far more ability to protect their child online.

*Survey by Common Sense Media

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: Latitude Research. Common Sense Media