Point/Counterpoint: Should little kids use technology?

The Journal's Lifestyle editors discuss giving devices to children

Monitored use of technology among children can create healthy habits.
Credit: 
Supplied by National Parks Service

No

In today’s increasingly digital age, we’re constantly plugged in and connected to everything around us. Because we’re surrounded by screens for much of our daily lives, it’s easy to stay immersed in social and data exchanges, and natural to feel overwhelmed and overstimulated by our devices.

That’s why parents should postpone giving their children personal electronic devices, or at least crack down on their use.

Although the right kind of technology may help prepare kids for the future, being overly connected from a young age poses a number of risks. Personal devices, and the unregulated use of the Internet and social networking sites, can lead to cellphone addictions, increased anxiety, and children who are vulnerable to online abuse.

Social networking apps, accessible through smartphones, have the potential to negatively impact children’s self-worth and aggravate feelings of isolation and anxiety. Platforms like YouTube and Instagram, known for churning out misleading content or doctored reality, can work to feed into a cycle of unmoored social expectations.

Being constantly connected to cellphones or tablets also increases our exposure to online harassment. Whether a child is being bullied or is the bully, unregulated access to devices can teach impressionable youngsters they’re safe behind a screen and have the power to say or do anything, no matter how hurtful. 

Perhaps the worst thing about technology is its ability to steal away valuable minutes, hours, and days from unsuspecting users. While parents may find it empowering to replace babysitters with iPhones, they risk conditioning their children to disengage from the world around them and choose their electronic device over human interaction.

Children should be given a fair chance to enjoy their formative years with worthwhile activities, like sports and imaginative play. There’ll come a time when most of them are stuck in an office, in front of a screen, wishing they’d taken advantage of their childhood. 

Ally Mastantuono, Assistant Lifestyle Editor

Yes

Technology can be dangerous for children if left unmonitored, but turning it into forbidden fruit will only add to the negative consequences.

It's an understatement to say technology is integral to our society—you'd be hard-pressed to find a phone and computer-free household today. Unless you're planning to raise children in a completely technology-free environment, there's little benefit to keeping them away from what's already an intrinsic part of our daily lives.

Future generations will grow up with technology, whether we like it or not. As we come to know more about our devices' capabilities, we can expect further integration of them into schools, museums, and various public spaces that'll require technological use from a young age. I first got my hands on a computer around age 10, but my younger sister has been assigned computer-based homework since she was five. 

As this part of the youth landscape changes, one element about children we've all likely noticed will remain the same: telling a kid they can't have something will only make them want it more.

Shielding children from technology will rightfully make them feel excluded from the digital world to which everyone around them remains connected. Cloaking the Internet with mystery will create intrigue, which could motivate kids to try exploring the web without a more experienced user supervising them.

As the first generation extremely attached to our devices, we're still grappling with how to safely integrate the Internet into our own lives. The least we can do is help the next crop of smartphone-wielders build healthy habits with their technological experiences. 

I'm not suggesting we let three-year-olds waste their childhoods away posting gibberish to their Instagram stories. But it wouldn't hurt to prepare kids for their digital destinies through some mild, monitored tech use.

—Josh Granovsky, Lifestyle Editor

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