This is definitely something that every parent grapples with now, something we never would have thought we would have to deal with a few decades ago. Children are inundated with technology now, so much so that they often know how to operate smartphones, tablets, and gaming systems when adults don’t. They’re growing up with technology as a part of their lives.
But is this the way it should be? Should we be trying to limit the amount of time that children spend on devices? Or should we just let it happen more organically and let them be exposed at the pace that technology advances? Should children be exposed to technology at an early age?
Ryan feels that “access to tech without supervision or oversight is just flat out wrong.” While as adults we know that the Internet is both the best and the worst, younger people are more susceptible to its more negative aspects, as “it takes a bit of time to develop the emotional maturity and self-confidence needed to navigate it.”
However, he also feels kids should be exposed to both technology and the Internet at an early age because it’s such a large part of our everyday lives. “The jobs of tomorrow are going to revolve around technology and the Internet,” so he feels kids should be exposed to it early on to develop those skills.
Miguel recommends parental supervision because “we don’t let our children venture out into the world unattended because they don’t understand the dangers they could potentially face.” With technology bringing the real world to our doorsteps, we should approach it in a similar fashion.
Yet, he hates to see children being helicopter-parented, as it leaves parents exhausted and children resentful. He’d like to see a more proactive approach where the more harmful dangers are mitigated while children are still able to make stupid mistakes that are just a part of growing up.
He does add, though, that he’d be worried if he had a teenage son who “didn’t occasionally dish out some edgy insults” when gaming and started buying illegal drugs online. “There’s a point at which too much is too much, and parental authority is a must.”
Phil recognizes that exposure is inevitable, but as far as “unguided unsupervised use” goes, he answers, “Hell no.” He believes that with parents using tablets and phones to babysit their kids, young’ns are becoming “boredom phobic” at a much younger age.
He knows of a woman who had to increase her data plan because her child needed to watch cartoons on the way to school. When it was suggested she could just tell her son to look out the window, the woman said, “Yeah, things are different from your era.”
Andrew notes that most new tech “gets flak for corrupting the youth” but knows “computers and connectivity are just tools with potential for abuse.” He believes parental involvement should be from that perspective, especially with the knowledge that kids are in less control of their brains than adults.
At the same time, he knows “the Internet is an amazing tool to learn all kinds of neat stuff and have all kinds of interesting experiences, and having a head for technology is basically a requirement to be successful in our economy.”
With everything taken into perspective, he believes letting young kids go digital is fine but believes there should definitely be guidance toward healthier tech rather than more recreational tech.
Damien realizes when we’re surrounded by tech “it is difficult to prevent kids from having access to the same technology that we are using every day.” The only way to deal with it is to provide parental guidance. While he allows his kids to watch YouTube every day, he does restrict their screen time as well as the content and also watches along with them.
Simon doesn’t think it’s so much “should” children be exposed but “how much” children should be exposed. He knows tablets and phones are great for kids to play games, and he could “nag and wag a finger at phone companies for ‘corrupting our youth,’ “ but when he was young, he was glued to the TV playing the hottest new consoles.
He thinks parents being aware of their kids’ screentime is vital while trying to ensure some “away time” such as a fun day out, finding a hobby, watching a movie at a theater, etc. “Kids using tablets doesn’t have to be demonized, but they can’t be left to their own devices, lest they end up getting some nasty addictive habits.”
I agree with much of what my peers here have said. Being online wasn’t as much of a draw when my own kids were really young, but social media was in its infancy when my son was a teen, and he learned the ins and outs of it before I did, so I had a difficult time keeping him from making secret accounts. I learned, though, how to control it by the time my daughter was the same age.
But I think that’s what it comes down to. Even if a parent doesn’t like gaming or social networks, they need to know everything about them to know how to help control it for their kids. Kids grow up knowing how to push buttons and do gestures – it’s hard to keep them from it. But parents need to be just as educated and need to know how to apply limits and perhaps sometimes use it as a reward or treat rather than a given.
We’ve given you many opinions here, and some of them are from non-parents, some are from parents with grown children, and some of them currently have young children. Still, most agree there needs to be some limitations.
How do you feel about young, connected children? Should children be exposed to technology at an early age? Give us your input below in the comments section.