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Children And Technology: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

By Essilor News

It's a brave new world, and children today are growing up with a completely different-or should we say digital-life experience. From virtual lemonade stands to endless digital games, today's kids have taken the joys of childhood out of the backyard and into the living room.

The Good
With their level of access to technology and a greater ability to understand and utilize it, today's children can explore the Seven Wonders of the World,use an app to learn how to read, write and spell, all while waiting for dinner to be served. Instead of opposing this change in our children's learning styles, schools are embracing technological advances as a way to empower children in educational environments.

A 2012 Pew Internet Project survey, done in conjunction with the College Board and the National Writing Project, found that roughly 75 percent of nearly 2,500 teachers agreed that the Internet and search engines have a "mostly positive" impact on student research skills. This helps make students more self-sufficient researchers than ever before.

Technology has also enabled children with disabilities to overcome obstacles in the classroom. Children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and dysgraphia are now able to utilize technology to conquer the struggles that once isolated them from their peers.

The Bad
In spite of the benefits that technology provides, there are plenty of naysayers raising concerns about the damaging effects of technology. The 2012 Pew Internet Project survey also revealed that 87 percent of teachers felt modern technologies were creating an "easily distracted generation with short attention spans."

Aside from shorter attention spans, increased use of technology can also cause children to miss out on real-life interactions. With only a decade or so to study the sociological effects of technology, we are unable to predict how the plugged-in lifestyle of today's kids will affect their future social interactions.

The Ugly
Steve Jobs announced Apple's first generation iPad in January 2010, and the world couldn't wait to get their hands on the miniature, hand-held computer. Teenagers and adults alike ran out to purchase the new device, and 300,000 were sold in the first 24 hours, changing the way we view and interact with the world.

Consumer and technology experts anticipated the craze from teenagers and adults, but were surprised by the early adoption of the technology by children and toddlers. Fast forward to today, where the youngest "lifetime iPad user" is just three and a half years old. At this young age we have no way of knowing the long-term effects tablets and smartphones have on our children.

Consider how close a child holds the screen to his/her face, and the length of time they spend staring at it - what long-term damage is caused by the blue light emitted from the device? Studies have shown that blue light emitted from LEDs and digital devices may cause retinal damage and could lead to aserious eye condition known as age-related macular degeneration.

What Can You Do?
While it's too early for us to determine any related danger, there are proactive steps we can take to reduce our children's direct contact to harmful light that may be hurting their eyes:

  • Limit your child's daily exposure to tablets, smartphones, computers and TVs
  • Encourage your child to play outside
  • Swap eBooks on the tablet for real books
  • Provide fun and engaging alternatives to technology: have a family game night, play hide-and-go-seek, or plan a new excursion in your community