Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.
The world that children are being born into today is a very different world than the one their parents were born into. It’s one where access to knowledge is readily available with a few swipes of the finger. It’s one where the skill of typing is no longer something to be listed on a resume. In this world, job readiness isn’t about what you’ve memorized in school. It’s about how creative and innovative you are. It’s about how well you can utilize the technology available to do the job more efficiently and effectively. For this reason, parents should not be hiding or banning technology in the home. They should be embracing it. The key is to dole out the correct technology at the correct age.
1. Technology For Ages 0 To 2
Ages zero to two is a wide space of time in terms of child development. What a newborn should be playing with and what a two-year-old should be playing with look very different. However, it’s now a widely accepted theory that all children under the age of two should not be sitting in front of any sort of screen, whether it’s a television, tablet or phone. It’s just not good for brain development.
That being said, it can be beneficial for children of this age to have more passive, electronic toys. This could include anything from a rattle that lights up to a stuffed animal that makes noises. These toys teach the child about cause and effect. If they push a button, something happens. But these toys should be used in moderation—there should be no more electronic toys than non-electronic toys in a child’s toy box.
2. Technology For Ages 2 To 4
At the age of two, the skull is thick enough and the brain is developed enough for a child to sit safely in front of a screen—for limited periods of time. A great way to ease into the use of screens is by starting with an e-reader. It’s a great tool when you’re on the road and can’t bring a suitcase full of books with you. And at home, it’s a good idea to switch back and forth between hard copy books and electronic ones. There’s also the added benefit of some e-readers allowing users to enable the read out loud feature. So if no adult is around, your child can still listen to a story.
Toddlers can also begin to use tablets and phones to play basic games, such as identifying shapes and finding objects—there are a few apps out there made specifically for this. Additionally, a few technologically advanced toys have been developed to begin teaching children letter pronunciation and numbers. But as the child gets closer to turning four, more advanced toys and games are necessary. Think puzzles and matching games—a bunch of apps offer these types of educational games and can be helpful in developing children’s senses.
3. Technology For Ages 4 To 6
When a child reaches the age of four, they are ready to begin using the internet. There are great websites available for children. They can play educational games and, just as importantly, learn to use the computer. The ability to navigate a computer is essential in today’s world, not only for success in future employment but even for success in school. It is becoming more and more common to see classrooms filled with iMacs and tablets to allow students different learning mediums and better engage them.
But one important thing to remember is supervision. Unfortunately, there are quite a few dark corners of the internet that are incredibly easy to stumble into. When your child is using the internet, just make sure it’s supervised. And with enough practice and experience online, you’ll see them developing their own games and apps before they even own their own phone.
4. Technology For Ages 6 To 10
When children begin school, they’re generally ready for more advanced technology. This means age-appropriate apps and even video games. Many of these tools have been shunned for years because of the violent or anti-social aspects of them. But if framed well, video games and apps can make children more social. If you make playing the game a family activity it changes the entire dynamic. Additionally, with the advent of augmented reality games, everyone can be totally immersed together while working on fine motor skills, balance and mobility. So instead of just using you television screen for a pretty digital display, you can get a little more use out of it.
It’s also time to start thinking about STEM toys at this age. There are robots, dolls and other toy machines that children can assemble and then program and control with an iOS or Android app. This gets them both working with their hands and their minds so that they hone their logic and problem solving skills.
5. Technology For Ages 10 And Up
When children enter their ‘tween’ years and continue on through high school, toys start to fade away. Sure, many will still hold on to their gaming console but they will likely need different, more engaging video games. Outside of XBox and Wii, other gadgets rather than toys are what children these age are interested in. And the great news is that many of these tech items can help them to learn and better engage with the world.
The best place to start is by finding out their interests. If they like the outdoors, the latest GoPros can come in handy. With this tool they can begin to work on their photography and videography skills as well as learn how to compile these documents and add effects through photo and video editing programs. Other items that are gaining popularity with tweens and teens are drones and hover boards. Both of these gadgets will get your child out into the world for some exploration and learning. Just make sure to track these pricey gadgets if you’re getting them mailed.