Hello to the tech savvy child

It was a normal start to the working day; I dropped the kids off at school and whizzed into work. Talking of “whizzed” – my life in general is whizzing everywhere. My husband and myself both work full time, I’m an Office Manager here at Amtech Business Solutions and my husband is a self-employed Plumber, and we have a six-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son. I feel such a sense of accomplishment from just arriving at work in the morning, even better if its earlier than I need to!

A debate started at work the other day on the topic of VR (Virtual Reality) and, in general, the intelligent tech that is around at the moment. We were discussing the changes and advancements in gaming and how our children’s lives are going to be so different in comparison to ours and our childhood.

I remember as a child growing up in the 90’s, if it was a sunny day, my Mum would turn off the TV and I would be told to go and play outside. The best bits would be when my little sister and I would have water fights (one in which involved flannels), which then soon become the ‘flannel fight’ – self-entertainment at its best. I didn’t even have a television in my room until I was 16. Come to think of it, it was just the one TV we had in the house growing up. I do remember my friend bringing round her brother’s play station a couple of times to play Grand Theft Auto, or my childhood favourite, The Sims. I’d spend hours on it, fighting with my sister over the one PC we had in the house (with dial up internet may I add).

Nowadays the list is endless for home entertainment devices; smart TVs; mobile phones; iPads; and gaming have all become the norm. But we’ve now been introduced to revolutionary VR and even the Smart Speaker (which links nicely into to our recent blog on the IoT). I recently discussed VR with my husband and the conversation went a little like this; Husband: “Ah I really want one of those VR headsets”, I replied “No, we are not having one of those in the house whilst the children are about” – reason being I already know how much my son loves going on our phones to watch YouTube videos of toys. I try to limit this to an extent but the idea of VR is a step too far for me, we’ve all seen the film Total Recall. It even makes me think of a recent series created by Charlie Brooker called Black Mirror – Brooker cleverly links technology into all his stories, showcasing how it can turn on us! It’s a scary thought that children will be growing up with Virtual Reality in our homes, what could this develop to in 5/10 years time?

Now don’t get me wrong I’m all for technology and the benefits it can bring to day to day lives in the workplace and at home, but it’s when we possibly start to depend on technology too much. Could all this technology be detrimental to young minds? What will happen to reading books, handwriting, learning fine cognitive motor skills, how to spell? Even I can admit I’ve become lazier with spelling due to auto correct, spell check and predictive text. What impact will this have on our children’s development? It’s using the brain in ways children wouldn’t normally have done – some would say desensitising it. See this blog post ‘How technology is changing the way Children think and focus’ by Jim Taylor Ph.d

I know that technology can aid learning and development at home and at school, but when the technology in our home is used on young minds too much, we as parents need to be responsible and limit its uses. Maybe it was how I was brought up, my Mum was always keen for me to go and play outside, explore nature and build dens. This is something we now do with our children and we know that technology has its place but when more and more devices are coming out year after year, are we allowing our children to become too reliant on technology and become child tech zombies? Could this era of Generation Alpha be a goodbye to the Picasso’s and Monet’s of the world and hello to the tech savvy child army developing in our homes? Only time will tell.

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Andrea (Cooper) Gibson - Head of Business Development