Unwrapping disadvantages to new technology as gifts for children


New technology may not be the best Christmas gift to give young kids, according to Anna Nippert, instructor of family studies and human services.

“I think there are a lot of great things that technology can do for young children,” Nippert said. “My fear with technology is that it becomes a babysitter.”

As more and more devices become common household items, parents have depended on interactive technology to keep their young kids occupied. Even apps that are made to teach young children certain skills can develop into a repetitive passive behavior for the child.

“Yes, it’s interactive in that they are touching and moving items,” Nippert said, “and there are educational apps that can be put on there, but once a child does them a few times, it can become a very passive experience.”

Although parents may be convinced that their child is learning, there comes a point when the child might not be processing the information anymore.

Nippert said that parents should be aware that technology is a tool to be used in small doses and to encourage creativity.

Haley Hermes, junior in family studies and humans services, said she thinks it’s OK for young children to have tablets, cellphones and other devices as long as parents are limiting the amount of time their children spend on them.

“When parents can still interact with their kids while using these devices is when the kids are going to get the most developmental benefits out of them,” Hermes said.

According to Hermes, kids are more fascinated with electronics now because society as a whole has become more interested in new technology. Today’s kids aren’t interested in the same things those of decades past were.

“I begged my parents for a hamster for three months until I finally got one,” Hermes said. “That’s what I was interested in, and that’s what all my friends had.”

Michelle Pankey, sophomore in elementary education, said that technology can be both good and bad for children.

“From an educational perspective, technology can be helpful and innovative,” Pankey said. “But it depends on the types of apps they are using.”

The transition into a technology dependent society has made it easy for parents to keep their children occupied without any social interaction.

“Parents can’t sit with their kids all the time to teach them all those things,” Nippert said. “I understand that, but there’s that fear that technology is overused.”

In order to replace all of that screen time, Nippert recommends placing something more creative under the tree for preschool-aged children.

“You really want to think about open-ended toys, which means toys that can be used in lots of different ways or for lots of different purposes,” Nippert said.

With her emphasis in preschool-age children, Nippert recommends toys such as Legos, blocks or creative art materials that allow kids to construct a variety of structures. These types of creative tools help develop problem solving skills.

“Helping children learn when they’re very young that they can come up with a variety of ways to solve the same problem is going to translate into older activities and older learning,” Nippert said.