Technology and Child Development

Whether we like it or not, technology is an essential part of our kids’ lives. They use it to build relationships with far-away family, exercise their brain with educational games, and express themselves creatively. Tech is even used in the classroom! It’s safe to say that cell phones and smart devices aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

This begs the question: how does all this early digital exposure affect a child’s development? 

The relationship between technology and child development is still being explored. The current generation is among the first group of kids to grow up with consistent exposure to technology since birth. As these kiddos grow, researchers (and parents) keep learning more and more about the effects technology has on children.

Here’s what we know so far about technology and child development.

Negative Effects of Tech

What’s your answer when someone says, “I have good news and bad news. Which do you want to hear first?” I always ask to hear the bad news first. Better to end on a positive note, right? 

As such, let’s take some time to address the negative effects tech has on child development before we explore the positive effects. 

  • Too much screen time makes kids stationary. Children may get so used to spending time with tech that they spend less time outside getting exercise. According to the CDC, kids ages 6‒17 need to get their body moving for at least 60 minutes a day. Help your kiddos avoid developing a stationary lifestyle by encouraging them to put down the phone and go play—their mental and physical health will thank you!
  • Tech lessens attention spans. In 2015, Time Magazine reported that the general human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds, meaning that we have a shorter attention span than a goldfish. Yikes! This is largely thanks to technology. With short-form entertainment like TikTok and YouTube on the rise, kids’ (and adults’) attention spans are lower than ever before.
  • Overexposure to technology increases the risk of depression and anxiety. It’s no secret that social media can negatively impact children’s mental health. Cyberbullying, perfectionism, and tech addiction all run rampant in the world of tech, leading kiddos to question their self-worth and potentially develop depression and anxiety. That’s why kid-friendly smartphones from Troomi eliminate social media entirely
  • Tech may make it difficult to maintain in-person social interactions. Tech makes it easy for kids to build and maintain relationships online, but what about real world relationships? If kids spend too much time on tech, they may miss out on developing valuable social skills that will benefit them in the future. 

Positive Effects of Tech

The relationship between technology and child development isn’t all bad. Let’s take a look at some benefits of tech!

  • Technology supports kids’ learning. Smartphones and computers are valuable educational resources. When used in the classroom, technology helps kids gain access to information that they wouldn’t otherwise have, in turn teaching kids more information in a shorter amount of time. There are also some pretty amazing educational games out there (like some Troomi KidSmartⓇ Apps), which make learning fun.
  • Technology improves multitasking. Studies show that “new technological devices promote multitasking…representing a potential boon to productivity.” Multitasking benefits kids by letting them focus on multiple things at once, such as taking notes during a lecture. So, don’t be surprised if you see your teen texting, listening to music, and working on homework all at once.
  • Tech helps kids develop stronger spatial reasoning and hand-eye coordination. Spatial cognition is a child’s ability to understand and react to the environment around them. A study published in the Review of General Psychology shows that playing video games and using phone applications actually helps kids hone their visual-spatial skills by introducing diverse sensory elements and requiring players to plan their character’s movement in advance.
  • Tech inspires long-term creative problem solving skills. Technology often presents kids with problems that require creative solutions. For example, picture a level of Angry Birds Journey (one of Troomi’s KidSmartⓇ apps). To defeat the pigs and solve the puzzle, kids have to get creative with slingshot angles and determine which bird is the best for the current puzzle. Developing creative problem-solving skills will help kids in many future situations from deciphering algebraic equations to fixing customer service mishaps. 

It’s All in How You Use It

Technology and child development have an interesting relationship. When used correctly, tech is a pretty amazing tool. It can benefit a child’s development by getting them excited about learning and making it easier to stay social. On the other hand, tech also decreases a kiddo’s attention span and may make children dependent on their screen to socialize. It all depends on how they use it.

As with all things, technology should be used in moderation. Remind your children about the importance of putting down the phone and experiencing life without a screen every now and then. After all, the world is a pretty magical place for kids to explore.