by Jeana Shandraw from www.SurfandSunshine.com
Introducing technology to children at an early age seems to be a hot topic these days. Most experts sternly frown upon any tech exposure at all before the age of 2, with a consensus of 2 hours per day being the max allowed thereafter. While I agree that these generalized guidelines may be appropriate for “mindless” technological entertainment, I don’t feel they can or should be applied to early education technology.
Now, “what is this early education technology you speak of?” you ask. My personal definition would be “any type of technology or advancement that is introduced to children at an early age to enhance or further educational learning or skills”. (Yes, I just made that up. Please feel free to add it to Wikipedia for me.) As with all things in life, to me, it is what you make of it. When parents make a conscientious choice of the programs their children are exposed to, they are able to actively cultivate a lifetime enjoyment and thirst for learning. (Woah folks, I’m on a roll!) I not only embrace technology in early education, I would, like totally, marry it if I could.
Having been brought up with a techie geek for a dad, I was constantly immersed in every new electronic gadget we could acquire. We went from the Atari (800, 5200 and ST) to the Commodore (64 and 128) and then made the leap to our first personal computer – a Tandy (Zork anyone?).
Fast forward to 10 years later and I’m now teaching my dad about this cool “internet” that I used daily as a Physics Assistant at USC – years before it became commercialized into the WWW in 1995.
The point to my history lesson here was that it was inevitable that I would also unabashedly throw computers and technology at my first born! Cut me open and I will probably bleed binary 0s and 1s. I readily admit that my son has received countless hours of technological exposure since he was just a little guy, and I would not change a thing.
It, of course, started with my father. He didn’t let me down and gave my son his very own iPad when he was just 10 months old. By the time he was one year old, he could recognize the upper case letters of the alphabet. With the help of a Baby Sign Language DVD (yes, that he watched on the evil television), he also knew over 100 words and was “speaking” in sentences to me. At 18 months old, Whistler could recognize all upper and lower case letters of the alphabet. At 20 months old, he could say all the letters of the alphabet and numbers 0-9. I whole heartedly give credit for this feat to this iPad app.
I’m not a certified instructor or accredited teacher, but I do know that repetition is key in learning new things, especially for children. The iPad is a wonderful tool that accomplishes this task while also engaging and encouraging its users. (When was the last time a flash card said your name and sang you a song for getting the answer right?) I am, however, very picky about what he watches on TV and plays on the iPad. All shows and apps must have an educational value, so shows like Tom and Jerry or apps like that stupid cat that records and repeats back what you say in a high pitched voice are NOT allowed.
I can remember early on, when the other women at Mommy and Me would look at me in disgust as I handed over my iPhone to my son after class while I spoke to another mom. They close mindedly assumed that I was merely handing him a distraction and didn’t bother to look and see what was really going on. He was learning. He was creating words from the letters on the screen. He was naming animals that most adults didn’t even know existed. That “thing” that the other moms were so petrified of exposing their children to “too early” had placed my child leaps and bounds ahead of theirs intellectually, which meant he was also able to communicate with me more effectively.
My son has a sweet disposition by nature, but I am certain that without his advanced communication skills (acquired from exposure to a ton of technology from mom) we would not have been able to “skip” things like temper tantrums and inconsolable crying. We luckily learned to communicate with each other very early on and this, I feel, has created an incredible blanket of confidence and security that has only strengthened our relationship. I have found that when used in moderation, and not as a replacement babysitter, early exposure to technology can provide some amazing benefits to both you and your children.