Thinking is what makes us human. It lets us reason, form conclusions based on experience, gain knowledge, develop insights, and reflect on past events. It allows us to build monuments, communicate, create works of art and amazing feats of technology, and become enlightened. Thinking is what we adults and children do every day: observing our surroundings, questioning things we don’t understand, making decisions, arguing when we have conflicting viewpoints with others, and so on.
The new wave of technologies has shaped the way we think. In particular, the invention of the Internet has brought upon unprecedented changes in the evolution of our minds. For better and worse, technology is now part of our lives. As it develops faster than the speed of light, it affects children in ways we are not always aware of. Since we do not come from the Internet age, we do not know how technology influences their thinking patterns.
The effects technology has on children are complex. It has both advantages and disadvantages to them. Whether technology is a boon or bane to them depends on what kind of device they use and how they use it.
The immediate environment of a child affects its attention span. Whether they are listening to the teacher’s lecture in front of class or recognizing their classmates’ names, children use attention. In past generations, children read a lot. That activity demanded a lot of intense attention, memory, and imagination. One needed to focus and let go of distractions to pay attention.
Not all technology is bad. Video games are shown to improve children’s visual and spatial abilities, identify details in the midst of clutter, increase reaction times, and enhance attention. They become better at remembering where to find information rather than storing information themselves. Information is so easy to find these days that children may have more mental space to contemplate, think about problems, and solve them.
With technology, children’s attention spans are shorter. Having Internet access during class means the students’ attention are less focused. They don’t recall the teachers’ lectures easily and perform more poorly during tests. Non-wired students have better problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and vocabulary than their wired counterparts.
Also, children who are more exposed to technology are more dependent on them. Those who are allowed to play with a parent’s mobile business phone while attending a social event tend to appear out of touch with reality. Because they are glued to the phone, they do not interact that much with other children, therefore not developing the social skills they’re supposed to learn.
Too much screen time at the expense of other activities like reading, writing, arts and crafts, and imaginative play is bad for children. Their wired brains may make them less prepared to navigate the tricky world of technology. Also, they are more likely to suffer from technology-related injuries such as eye strain, stiff neck, and tendonitis.
If you’re a parent or guardian, it’s up to you to moderate your children’s exposure to technology. Set limits to the number of hours they can play in front computer or video game. Spend time doing non-electronic activities like playing board games or telling stories. In the end, technology cannot replace the quality time you spend with your children.