A CASE FOR TABLETS FOR PRE-SCHOOL CHILDREN

INTRO

Tablets and smartphones are for many parents a big no when it comes to preschool-children and even primary-school children. And it is true that these devices baring many risks for young children, as also for teens and even adults, especial when online. Social networks inviting young and old to communicate with known and unknown participants. Hackers spying on you and your children, sometimes to gather information, or cleaning out your bank account. Advertisers homing into your private sphere, Identity theft, cyber bullying, blackmail, addiction and and and… the list is endless.

Despite this we see teenagers and also many adults glued 24/7 on the screen of smartphones and tablets. Even young children, even toddlers are unsupervised starring at and swiping the interactive glass.

So, it comes with no surprise that many parents are horrified of these devises in the hand of their offspring.

By all considerations how harmful tablets can be to young children, it is how parents taking control what the child is using it and over the time a child spends on the device. 

Smartphones (and Tablets) are often used to keep children occupied. And this is often for a lengthy time. Often this is done without supervision and with data, airtime or Wi-Fi activated. This unsupervised online time is usually not a good idea, since children will go on sites which are not appropriate for them. Even YouTube, which is very liked even by small children can have harmful content, even with the settings are on made for Kids. They also will download their own games, which are not always good for children. It might be that the linked credit card to the app-store is not secured, and you will find that your offspring downloaded for 1000$ online games. And we should never assume that a preschool kid cannot download paid games, because it does not know the sequence of steps to the unsecured credit card. Many children are very persistent in try and error until (often) they get it right. Even if you use passwords in front of your child they might pick it up.

But there is the tendency to be alarmed when a new form of media becomes popular with children. It started with TV, then video games and PlayStation, there are obviously also reservations about touchscreens. Do these devices have benefits, that will outweigh the possible bad effects on children playing with them?

Let’s take a look how to train your child outdoors. Soon after the toddler starts walking, it doesn’t like to be always in your hand, but likes to roam around and discover the world with his new skills. Obviously you won’t allow your child to wander off all by itself. He will be on your hand while you navigate the labyrinth of streets, vehicles, pedestrians and other obstacles. For its first off hand outings will take it to a save area like a park. But still under strict supervision.

When the child gets older, you will teach it how to behave in traffic, what do look out for, how to navigate the sidewalks, the street and the traffic lights. It is then only after the child becomes older and matured, it can criss- cross the wilds by its own.

I’m sure you as a parent will follow the same discipline on the road. Surely you are not taking the risk to be run over by a bus while performing unnecessary stunts on a busy road. (Here I might be wrong)

It is the same with the electronic devices. It doesn’t matter if TV, Video games, tablets, smartphones, etc. A child should be guided, the time limited. But not forbidden. After all these are devises which the young children have to deal with in the future. An early guidance will help them to handle them correctly. Surely it won’t give you guarantee how they will handle them when they become full blown teenagers. But then not giving access at all in young years won’t help either.

THE STUDIES – PRO AND CONS

First we have to distinguish between the use of smartphones / tablets, and the “screen-time”. Screen-time can be anything from TV, computers, PlayStation, Virtual Reality devices, etc.

Some experts combine watching TV with interactive smartphone, tablet and play stations as screen time. They are different, as watching TV is a passive activity while playing with touch screens involves children actively.

And because tablets and smartphones are still new, research does not have much data to make clear and consistent findings. Although many studies are warning us that screentime affects children brain, it is still early to say how it will shape their mind. But the dangers cannot be ignored. We have to keep in mind that while there are risks, they are more than compensates by equipping children with important skills.

Most of these studies actually concentrate also on the unsupervised use of tablets and smartphones. That is the time a child is using a device under their own control, often online.

In this blog I want to focus on tablets, as this are tools used by most pre and primary school children for entertainment and learning. These devices are preferred for young children as they employ touchscreens. These devices allow very young children to engage interactively in an intuitive way with actions as simple as touching, swiping and pinching. (Smartphones are less suited, as the screens are usually smaller, and they employ a sim-card for telephony. PlayStations are specialised on gaming. Learning is more restricted.)

I believe that the future of learning is only temporarily with tablets. In the further future most probably, it is done with augmented and/or virtual reality devices. If the present situation is an indicator, I won’t be surprised when in 10 or 20 years the new normal sees people strolling the street with AR goggles or smart glasses decorating their faces.

Interestingly there is no common agreement among the learned academics of how harmful or positive a tablet or smartphone can be. There is the one extreme who can’t find any causes of concern giving children unlimited access to the devices. Others seeing it positive with restrictions, again others seeing it rather negative, but accepting the use with restrictions. What I failed to see where reports where devices should be completely prohibited for children. In general, if you compare the fast majority of the studies, one will notice in principle they are saying the same thing. Restrict the use of tablets and smartphones. As younger the child is the less time should be allowed. Some studies do not recommend these devices for babies and toddlers.

The following are excerpts of two articles about smartphones. The headlines are suggesting opposite views about the danger of smartphones.

AN EXTREME POSITIV VIEW:

“Guess What? It Turns Out Smartphones Aren’t A Danger To Our Children’s Health”

“The rapid adoption of new technologies by younger generations always prompts fear among parents. But the reality, the truth, which science has now shown, is that the use of smartphones and tablets under normal circumstances does not generate any significant problems, does not require any further measures than the use of common sense, and is not responsible for problems such as obesity, anxiety or depression”.

“At the same time, there’s no doubt that using these devices to the detriment of other activities, such as playing with their peers, socializing, practicing music or sport or socializing generally is not a good idea”.

“Arguing that smartphones are addictive or that manufacturers are to blame for making them so appealing is pathetic. What’s missing in all this a bit of basic common sense: if we use these devices as a way to pacify our children, we can’t then complain that they won’t pay attention to anything else. We don’t need a bogus survey to tell us that, we just need to use our brains”.

THE NEGATIVE SIDE…..:

“Impact of smartphones on kids is serious”

“We should now have more reason for concern over the excessive use of technology among the young”.

“Smartphones are making children less curious about what is happening around them. Our children need to get outside and engage with nature. In restaurants or shopping malls, you will see that many kids don’t notice anything that is happening around them because they are so focused on their smartphones and tablets.

Connecting with the natural environment is essential. A strong connection to nature enhances emotional well-being. It helps children to develop insight, empathy, and compassion”.

“My heart hurt and was saddened when some parents narrated to me how their kids are on their phones all the time – in school, at home and even in bed at night. They are becoming more aggressive and easily irritable. A parent mentioned how her child’s sleep pattern has been impaired. She is unable to get to sleep at night”.

“Excessive screen time has even been tied to bullying behaviours and many other school problems, even in little kids. Some of the newer interactive games’ children play on phones or tablets cause dramatic shifts in behaviour. Smartphones have created a generation without manners. Smartphones can take over the kids’ lives if parents allow it. It can really be difficult, but parents must always find ways of getting children off their phones and other electronic devices”.

While the first contributor doesn’t find anything wrong with smartphones in kid’s hands, the second one wants to ban these devices in the kid’s hands. Interestingly, both agree and saying that EXESSIVE use of smartphones is bad for children.

TABLETS IN ACTION

Tablets in schools and pre-schools

  • looking into the near and further future tablets (or devices which eventually replace tablets) are the tools which the young person has to master he/she wants to be successful in the world.
  • In an environment conscious generation paper is on the way out. Printing is getting discouraged. On a tablet you can draw, write, delete and store. Children can go through tons of papers during their school time. End of the school year there are getting disposed of in a rubbish pin*.
  • In South Africa we had always shortage with school books. Every year there where many children who got all their books later in the year. It is much easier to download the material onto the tablet. The biggest challenge with these devices is that they get lost or stolen.
  • Updating, revising and correcting schoolbooks is much easier and cheaper for electronic devices then printing.
  • Complimenting reading material is easier to download then to purchase a printed copy. Schools are using tons of papers for copies for the learners.
  • Teachers can interact remotely with learners and parents through these devices.
  • There is the danger, as specially with smartphones of chatting, or playing games in school breaks and even in class. Children get distracted and failing to pay attention in class. Especially phones or used for this malpractice. Tablets are less prone to be abused since they are not as handy and can easily function without a sim card. Anyway, it is not a good Idea to let primary schoolchildren take smartphones with to school.

Tablets at home

  • Parental control is the required in every aspect of children live. Not only electronic devises. From behaviour at home, interacting and visiting friends, homework, When I grew up the only electronic devises we know where radio and TV. These times where strictly controlled by my parents, not only how long we were allowed to watch, but also what programs we could see and what not. Besides these we had toys and games at home to keep us busy. I also liked to loved books, especially adventure stories. Often I could not take a book out of my hand, until I consumed one of the highlights. This often happened at night without the knowledge of my parents. Since leaving the lights on would have exposed me I read in the dark. Despite the repeated warning of my parents that this is bad for the eyes.
  • Also, at home the young children often need a lot of paper. I see it with my grandchildren, 6 and 7 years old. They like drawing, writing, colouring and crafting. They easily go through couple of DIN A4 papers in a session. Most of them thrown away when done*.
  • Games: While there are real advantages with physical games, puzzles and building blocks have the advantage of a greater range of sensorimotor and visualmotor, it is also important to supervise, or join the children. All to easily are blocks and pieces lost, or damaged. Tablets got the advantage of a fast variety of games and puzzles, from easy to difficult, which help the children with mathematics, with language, problem solving and critical thinking.

THE FUTURE

In the next 10 or 15 years the scope of pre-school, primary school and high school will change dramatically.

It will ultimately adapt to the technologies and job applications which are available at the given time.

Computer, tablets, smartphone and AR/VR devises will be in the future the common companions for most people. At the workplace and privately. All information will go through the clouds. Many people will work from home, and entrepreneurs will make up a large junk of the new middle class. I can foresee that much of the live long learning won’t be in colleges and universities, but at home in front of the laptop or tablet. Classes will be done through video meeting like Zoom, Skype, Google Meet and others. Like it happens already, the focus on business won’t be so much local anymore but becoming more and more international.

The school system, and with it also pre and primary school will eventually follow the trend. Already, many online universities and colleges abroad offering courses online, with diplomas which are internationally accepted. We also have to keep in mind that the old-timers of today won’t sit in the decision making of tomorrow. In 10 or 20 years it will be mostly millennials who decide what are the best educational tools for early child hood. By then, we old-timers from today are living fossils (if we make it alive through the pandemic) starring in owe at the achievements of our offspring.

 

 

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