How do computers influence children’s development?
The fact that computers have become widespread throughout the western world over the past two decades has (unsurprisingly) had a massive effect on the development of our children. At this stage almost every child has access to a computer. As a result of children are growing ever-closer to their computers, often becoming more proficient in using them than their own parents.
With these technological developments, our children’s education grows and changes to adapt and become relevant. What we need to know is, what impacts do these changes have on our children’s development? Do computers put our children at an advantage or a disadvantage in the long run?
Educational Software Programmes
One definite benefit of the widespread use of computers is the vast amount of great educational software and websites which have been developed to improve children’s education. These programmes can come in the form of creative and educational games, videos and lessons that will help your child improve their knowledge of anything from vocabulary to mathematics, typing to logical thinking and everything in between.
Some of our favourite websites include:
- Khan Academy: Free Online Courses, Lessons & Practice;
- Sesame Street: Preschool Games, Videos, & Colouring Pages;
- Scratch: Imagine, Program, Share;
Instant Access to Resources
Computers change have the potential to revolutionise the way children can learn at school. With increased access to home computers and internet connections, students can now be given exciting homework and research assignments that can be completed online. Some schools offer their students the option to message teachers and fellow students with any questions and issues they might have. However, even without this option, the internet provides students with the answers to thousands more questions than their textbooks ever could.
Computers, smartphones and the internet have all revolutionised the ways in which we communicate. The same goes for our children.
All of the various online communication tools like instant messengers, chat rooms, Facebook and email tend to be used widely by children. When used correctly and safely, the Internet can provide all sorts of new options for social interaction, whether that involves making new friends or keeping in touch with those who have moved away. The ability to send messages to people all over the world not only allows children to stay connected with those they care about, but can also work towards improving children’s literacy and storytelling abilities when they send emails and other written updates.
The increased use of computers does not only have positive effects. It can also have a negative effect on the development of children.
Less Physical Activity
Allowing children free reign of computers and other electronic devices can often cause them to lose interest in physical activity to a certain degree, which may lead to obesity or other health risks. Often, children will not consider time spent on the computer to be a substitute for time spent watching television. This means that rather than simply switching to looking at a different screen from usual, they will simply be having twice as much screen time.
This additional screen time will cut into time that should be spent on physical activity, play and study.
Hindered Social Development
No matter how many social networks are developed, the online world will never allow your child to develop socially to the same extent that playing with their peers will. Many teachers, parents and guardians express concern that overusing the computer can stunt their children and student’s development of interpersonal relationships and social skills. Children need access to all elements vital to their development, and one of these is the opportunity to socialise and interact with other human beings.
Stories of the potential negative effects of computers can be found wherever you turn, and leave no doubt of the type of impacts the internet can have. These instances may seem ridiculous and unrealistic, but they are very real examples which should act as cautionary tales for the impact our devices can have on our lives.
It isn’t just your children’s physical activities that can be affected by spending too much time on the computer. Behavioural issues can easily develop from the lack of socialisation which is common in children who overuse the computer. This problem is often made worse if only the symptoms are addressed without first considering why your child spends so much time online. It could be that they are struggling at school or having other difficulties which are causing them to want to escape into the world of the computer.
That said, often overuse of the computer is simply a force of habit which can be avoided by making sure your child has plenty of opportunities to play outside and socialise with their friends in person.
Potential Psychological Effects
The internet holds a vast amount of information, and a vast number of users. The number of people your child could potentially interact with online can mean that unsupervised or uncontrolled use of this technology can have negative effects on their psychological health.
Programs such as chat rooms, virtual worlds and multiplayer games can not only lead your child vulnerable to cyberbullying, but can also be highly addictive. Overuse of these systems can often lead to problems such as depression, loneliness and a confused sense of reality.
Overall all the benefits children get from using the computer outweigh the disadvantages. However, it is important for parents and teachers to be aware of the potential negative impact computers can have on the development as children so it can be kept to a minimum.