Psychologist Dr Aric Sigman has caused controversy by saying that under-three's should have almost no exposure to television. While it would be difficult to argue the opposite, many may be surprised that Dr. Sigman recommends virtual banishment for the very young. Furthermore, he recommends limiting up-to-seven year olds to a maximum of an hour and a half of TV or computer exposure per day, and a maximum of two hours up to the age of 18.
Dr. Sigman's recommendations are based on a number of research observations. One concern is that sitting in front of screens leads to a sedentary lifestyle and is largely responsible for the explosion in diabetes and heart disease in the population. Another concern is that the acts of watching television and playing computer games have an affect on brain development. While brain scans of computer gamers showed different brain patterns, his research does not conclusively prove that gaming alters the brain, or whether people with gaming patterns are predisposed to playing games. His research does suggest that gamers are more prone to addiction and develop a dependency on screen technology.
We probably aren't that surprised to hear all of this; we all remember our own grandparents talking about the perils of television and the harm it would do in modern society, but back then it was pure conjecture and fear of the unknown. That their fears are being realised at a time when screens are appearing in every room of the house and even in our pockets gives us more to think about. We really have entered the information age, and we don't know where this is going!
It's never been easier to make video - most of us now walk around with a video recorder in our pocket...a mobile phone. If you haven't got a swish mobile with video capability then unless your still stuck on a traditional film camera, the chances are that you can record video on your camera. Use video as a tool to engage your little ones. Older children can make their own 'film' - have them record a scene that they play out amongst themselves. Record younger children singing or acting, or just playing. Demonstrate how you can record and play back. If you can show your video on a television then do that - that is certain to delight the children!
Record older children as they learn to read and record them explaining concepts to you. For eample, ask them what a volcano is, or how rain occurs. Really clever kids might know the answer, but if they don't, you might get some really funny explanations.
Children today are better at using a computer than tying their shoelaces - according to a recent poll nearly all of the children questioned could play a computer game but only a third could tie their shoe laces! Of the 1057 five to seven-year-olds questions, 97% of them could operate a computer which is staggering.
But is this surprising or shocking? Not surprising as it is a technological world in which we live. Computers are everywhere and are a vital part of our lives, whether we like it or not. Also, not all computer games are dangerous and harmful! Many are educational, entertaining and charming for children to enjoy. And, just because a child knows how to use a computer, it does not mean that same child doesn't attend football classes, climb trees and get enough fresh air and exercise.
Nearly half the children questioned have access to the internet at home, according to Kelkoo who carried out the study. Of the parents questioned, 26% suggested they were worried about the negative impact of technology on their children but and their ability to form relationships. But 87% said that being familiar with technology was vital to their child’s development.
Clearly, monitoring your child's use of the internet and computer based games is vital, but we have to understand that computers are also a vital part of our world and you don't want your child being left behind.
I suppose the question remains: how useful is using a computer (to research, to communicate and to have some fun too) compared with the life long use of tying a shoelace in an age of buckles and velcro.
What do you think? Please post your thoughts.
Using technology to teach and inspire children is vital in this day where computers are commonplace, digital gadgets are all over the place and technology is so much more accessible.
Many children have their own toy cameras now, which is great to see the world through the eyes of the children.
However, you can try to give the camera usage a little more direction by setting the children photography projects such as:-
- Things that make me happy (ice cream, friends)
- Things that are brightly coloured (coat, bike)
- Things that don't belong here (litter dropped on the pavement etc.)
- Things that are beautiful (nature, trees)
- Things featuring numbers (shop phone number, house number)
- Things featuring letters (road names, signs)
- Things we need (post boxes, front doors)
- People I love... etc.
You could set the challenge of photographing things that begin with the alphabet letters.
- Find an Apple, Bed, Cup, Desk, Egg, Fence etc.
- Find various colours: find find 5 red items.
- Find a certain number of things: find 3 socks, 2 teddies etc.
When the pictures are taken, show the children how to load the images onto the computer. Describe what happens as you flick through the pictures and sort them. Show them how you print them and trim to size etc. You could then create a booklet displaying the images in order and writing the appropriate letter on each page.
If your children attend a nursery, there's a good chance that they come home talking about what they've done on a smartboard, and you're possibly left wondering what on earth a smartboard is?! Classroom technology has shifted from blackboards to whiteboards, through acetate projectors and onto computer projectors. The smartboard is your children's generation classroom presentation equipment!
A smartboard is an interactive whiteboard. A computer projects a video display onto a touch sensitive screen and children and teachers can interact with the screen using their fingers or special 'pens', which may also have buttons on like a mouse. Smartboards can be used for a variety of purposes including:-
- watching television and videos
- playing interactive games
- drawing and writing
- story telling
At one level a smartboard can be used just as a large screen for a computer, but it is enhanced with interactive games that allow people to interface in all sorts of fun ways.
In nursery schools, smartboards are often used for projecting children's TV programmes, telling stories (sometimes interactive) and for educational games to introduce colours, numbers, letters, shapes and other basic learning.
All of this is introducing children to information and communication technology from the age of 3 years and upwards. There's no doubt that children are growing up in a world very different from the one we grew up in; by the time they are starting school at the age of 5, most children already have varied exposure to computers, ICT and numerous digital gadgets!
The world that our babies are growing up in is very different from the one that we experienced - computers, mobile phones and digital media are the norm. Governments around the world place a strong emphasis on young children learning about this world under the umbrella term ICT - Information Communication Technology. The term ICT covers not just computers, but all forms of technology and media, including television and the various forms of digital music.
Many parents are reluctant to let their babies near computers - partly because they are not childproof, but also because of the fear that they will turn into zombies in no time at all! ICT however has become an important part of early years education and your children will be introduced to computers and technology at nurseries, preschool and school anywhere from the age of 18 months and upwards.
Early on they may be exposed to computer 'whiteboards' where they can draw interactively onto a screen projection, or they may be encouraged to put a CD into a music player and find the right track. They might play with cassette recorders to record themselves singing, and of course they will be snapped on digital cameras for record logs of their progress. Technology is all around us these days, and gadgets will only become more widespread throughout the lives of our babies.