by Michelle LaRowe
Editor in Chief
Speaking of technology, through Facebook I’ve had the opportunity to reconnect with high school classmates. One such classmate is Corinne Altham, who serves as a library information integrator in South Portland, Maine. Recently, we had a chance to connect on the topic of introducing kids to technology. Here’s what she had to say.
eNannySource: When is it beneficial to introduce kids to technology?
Corinne: Today’s touch screen tablet is so intuitive for even the youngest minds, so children today are being introduced to technology when they are babies. I think it’s up to parents to decide upon the right time to introduce technology to their kids, but I also would caution against the overuse of technology at an early age. The brain is social. We learn from our interaction with people, not from screens. The more time our infants and toddlers spent tapping the glass instead of reading cues from families and friends, the more they will lose in social skills and understanding of the world.
School-age children are in an ever-increasing digital environment. From one-to-one iPads in kindergarten to digital textbooks in middle and high school, technology is becoming ubiquitous in our schools. I think it’s smart for parents to start the conversation about digital safety and netiquette as early as kindergarten. As the first teachers, parents need to teach kids to protect themselves and their reputation in both the digital and physical world because, to quote The Social Network, “The Internet isn’t written in pencil, it’s written in ink.”
eNannySource: First tech savvy toy. Laptop or Tablet?
Corinne: Tablets and smart phones are much more intuitive for young kids. When you think about it, a laptop is a business machine. There’s so much more to startup, shutdown and running programs on a laptop that in my opinion, a tablet is the better choice. And with the tremendous amount of excellent applications that can be downloaded to a tablet computer, the choice is clear that it’s a superior tool for kids and learning.
eNannySource: When it comes to introducing kids to technology, what should the goals be? What are the real benefits? The cons?
Corrine: As a tech integrator, I love when I see teachers using technology as a tool not a toy. Tech should be used when it’s the right tool for the job. There are tremendous benefits for parents who want to engage their children’s creativity, reinforce a skill or strengthen problem-solving skills. The real benefits are the engagement that technology inspires in kids. Whether they’re collaborating with an aunt on www.storybird.com or practicing math facts with their best friend on www.arcademics.com , the sheer bulk of what’s out there on the web to engage kids’ creativity and imagination is almost endless. As a parent of young children, I think the biggest con of technology is that we sometimes use it as the virtual babysitter. I see kids in restaurants, in the car or in other public places with their noses glued to mom or dad’s phone and I wonder, what are they missing in the world around them? That may surprise people since I am a technology teacher, but I really think that technology is a big part of the reason that one in three kids today is obese. As with anything in life, there must be balance.
eNannySource: Where can parents find age-appropriate games and activities for kids online?
Corinne: My go to guide for any type of media is www.commonsensemedia.org. They vet and review multiple media types and help parents make informed choices about what their kids are doing online and beyond. But with any app, website or game, it’s important for you as a parent to first review what you’re putting into your child’s hands.
eNannySource: How can parents establish healthy guidelines for technology use?
Corinne: Excessive screen time isn’t healthy for anyone, never mind developing children, so I think it’s important to set healthy limits on technology early. If you set the tone early that as the parent that you will control how much time is spent in front of a computer or television screen, you should have fewer struggles over limits. When I see that my children are spending too much time watching television or a computer screen, I will call a “Screen Free Weekend” to remind them that mom and dad are the bosses and that we can have fun in lots of other ways as a family.
eNannySource: What are some of the common mistakes parents make with regards to kids and technology and how can they avoid them?
Corinne: Being a parent is such hard work. And the digital age has made parenting even harder. I think it’s super important to keep control of the computers in your home. And don’t forget the SmartPhone you gave your child for their birthday: that’s a computer like all the rest. If your children are young, allow for parent-supervised use of the Internet only. If you have teenagers, check their browser history. If it’s constantly wiped out, chances are they are going somewhere they don’t want you to see. Pop their names into Google to check their digital footprint. Join Facebook and see what you can find. It’s not snooping if you’re the parent. Giving kids access to the Internet and not keeping tabs on how they’re using it is irresponsible and a recipe for disaster. And if you don’t know enough about computers to be able to keep tabs on what your children are doing online, find someone who does and ask for help. By starting the conversation early with your kids, setting boundaries and having the difficult conversations about the dangers of the web, you can create an atmosphere of trust and communication that will help your kids in all areas of their lives.
Corinne Altham is a Library Information Integrator in South Portland, Maine. She has been teaching in public education for fifteen years. She is a master’s candidate in the Wilkes University Instructional Media program. She runs a popular website www.mrsaltham.com that helps kids develop skills in informational literacy. She is also the director of Camp Invention, a STEM-based summer science camp for students in grades 1-6.← Preventing Common Car Related Injuries and Deaths | Expert Insights: Teaching Kids About Identity Theft with Julie Myhre, Content Manager at NextAdvisor.com →