There are numerous technology media which pre-school children can be exposed to. They include televisions, computers and video games consoles. There are many researches that indicate that well- designed and age appropriate television and other electronic media use can be beneficial to children below the ages of five years. There are certain programs that if well chosen for the children will be quite beneficial to the cognitive development of such children. The exposure of preschool children to technology can be quite optimal in that it allows children to experience a world that can never be readily available to them. (Kirkorian,Wartella, &Anderson, 2008). However, there are numerous arguments that show that giving children full access to technology may not be quite beneficial to their cognitive development.
There are numerous researches on pre-school children that show that children below five years hardly learn anything from the electronic media programs. It has been revealed that children below the ages of three can hardly distinguish between the programs they were watching and commercials. They are also unable to distinguish between the television objects and real life objects (Kirkorian,Wartella, &Anderson, 2008). This shows that exposing a preschool to too much technology fundamentally affects the child’s cognitive development.
Another effect of giving preschool children full access to technology is that it seriously impacts on their need to participate in outdoor activities and games. According to World Forum—Nature Action Collaborative for Children, Nebraska Nature Collaborative for Children (NeNACC) and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education (2008), preschool children are more likely to grow health, wiser and more productive if they are fully interacting with the natural environment around them than if they are not interacting with the environment. Such children should be involved in as many as possible educational and recreational activities. These activities would in turn lead to long term benefits in that it will enable the society to raise more productive adults in the working environment.
In their paper, the World Forum—Nature Action Collaborative for Children, Nebraska Nature Collaborative for Children (NeNACC) and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education (2008), argue that adults have immensely encouraged young preschool children to get out of touch with nature.They do not know how to socialize and interact with the outside. This is what can be attributed to the poor communication skills that young persons who had earlier been exposed to too much technology have. Research shows that nowadays children spend averagely 30 hours in a single week just watching television programs or computer screens, or listening to music through headphones. According to this paper, this is quite detrimental to the development of children as they are unable to connect with the real world.According to the National Survey Report by the Center on Media and Human Development, 69% of parents had a problem with exposure of preschool children to media and technology. According to the Survey Report, one of the reasons they gave for this apprehension is that they feared that their children might be unable to develop social skills if they spent much of their time engaged in using media and technology.
Another impact that exposure of technology has on preschool children is that it has led to a dramatic increase in obesity rates among young developing children. According to Dr. Sigman (2010), one of the impacts is that television watching makes to eat more in a very significant manner. It creates a certain urge to eat even if one is not physically hungry. According to recent research, even children who don’t frequently watch television ate more than when they were not watching any television. (Stroebele & deCastro 2004) One of the main reasons for this is that the brain monitors the external non-food cues from the television screen and tells the brain to ignore the internal food cues that tell us that we have eaten enough. Research shows that this increase in appetite does not diminish when the child stops watching but continues long after stopping to watch the program. This, therefore, explains one of the reasons why children exposed to too much technology suffer from obesity at a very tender age.
Another reason for the obesity is that when the preschool children are glued to different electronic media, there is no metabolism of the fats in the body. When children are allowed uncontrolled access to media, all they do is sit while watching their programs. They are no longer involved in outside play. These children sit in front of different electronic media while taking uncontrolled amounts of snacks but don’t participate in play that would lead to the burning of the fats in their bodies. Because they are not engaged in outside play the result is an increase in the number of young obese children.
Another significant disadvantage in exposure of preschool children to technology is that it leads to attentional damage. Screen media are associated with alterations in the child’s developing attentional system. According to Dr. Sigman A. (2010) different research show that early exposure of preschool children to television during critical periods of brain development leads to subsequent attention problems in children. Research reveals that children exposed to television at the ages of three and 5 were more likely to be exposed to the risk of developing attentional problems than their counterparts who had not been exposed to television watching. According to the National Survey Report conducted by the Center on Media and Human Development, parents noted that many of their children had problems paying attention especially when they had their eyes glued on a specific technology device.
Another negative impact is that the preschool children can be exposed to inappropriate content that involves sex, violence and drugs related programs. This is because the internet media and television programs hardly censor their programs. When a child switches on the television set, he/she is quite unaware of the content of the programs that he/she may be exposed to. This is normally possible because the parents are more often than not too busy to censor the programs that the children watch. This is quite damaging to a child as the child develops inappropriate behaviors unknowingly. Indeed this is the explanation that can be given for the cause of some preschool children being constantly involved in fighting in school. According to what has been fed into their brains through the different technology media, this is quite okay. (Downey S. Hayes N. &O’Neill B. 2004)
Uncontrolled exposure of preschool children to technology replaces the role of parenting by parents to the child. According to the National Survey report by Media Center for Human Development, one of the reasons parents gave for allowing their children to get access to technology is that it keeps the young toddlers distracted. The parents in this case were seen to be clearly escaping their parental responsibilities of taking care of the young toddlers. It has a significant influence on the child’s ability to relate with his/her other members of the family. The child grows up feeling that he/she does not need the parents and the other family members. This in turn negatively impacts on the cohesiveness of the family unit as the child is not taught family values right from the tender age.
According to the World Forum—Nature Action Collaborative for Children, Nebraska Nature Collaborative for Children (NeNACC) and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education (2008), parents should not allow themselves to be lured by technology to the detriment of the time they spend with their children in outdoor activities. Technology has always been praised as giving children the opportunity to interact with a world that they would not have been able to access. However, what that would to is deny the parents a chance to interact and know and understand their children’s needs more.
According to Dr. Sigman A (2008), there are many preschool children who are now suffering from mental illness associated with watching too much television. According to the World Forum—Nature Action Collaborative for Children, Nebraska Nature Collaborative for Children (NeNACC) and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education (2008), there has been a dramatic increase in the use of behavioral drugs among the preschool children. The use of such behavioral drugs has even surpassed the use of antibiotics among the preschool children. These statistics quite want as it shows the level of mental health risks our preschool children have suddenly been exposed to.
There are, therefore, calls to look into how preschool children are allowed to use technology. First is the need for more parental involvement and control. Parents are now required to not only control the content of information or programs the preschool children have access to, but are also required to control the number of hours that such children access various technological media. There is also need for exposure of preschool children to get involved in outdoor activities more. Parents are advised to encourage their preschool children to get more engaged in play when at home. Baby daycare centers are also encouraged to have activities that involve actual playing among the toddlers instead of just distracting them using television programs. All these will ensure that the children’s cognitive development is not interfered with. (World Forum—Nature Action Collaborative for Children, Nebraska Nature Collaborative for Children (NeNACC) and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education 2008)
Center on Media and Human Development,(2013), Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology A National Survey, < web5.soc.northwestern.edu//2013//Parenting.>
Kirkorian H. L. Wartella E. A.& Anderson D. R, (2008) Media and Young Children’s Learning, Future of Children Journal, Vol. 18
World Forum—Nature Action Collaborative for Children Nebraska Nature Action Collaborative for Children National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education (2008) Call for Action: Reconnecting the World’s Children to Nature,< www.worldforumfoundation.org/wf/nacc/call_to_action.pdf>
Dr. Sigman A. (2010) The Impact of Screen Media on Children: A Eurovision ForParliament, <www.ecswe.org/downloads/publications/QOC-V3/Chapter-4.pdf>