Impact of Technology on Kids
For some years now, questions have been posed regarding the impact of digital technology on the emotional and cognitive development of young children. More recently, these questions, which so far referred only to preschoolers and older kids, have also extended to infants and toddlers because of the extensive digital exposure they are experiencing. Every new technology introduced in the past decade or so has altered the daily routine of the kids and has sparked both excitement and concern among parents and educators.
Babies started watching television long before the year 1997, but this year carries importance because this was the year when Baby Einstein, the first baby video was released. This video and the similar ones that followed its trail contributed to a massive explosion of television programs and other digital products aimed at toddlers. The past few years have witnessed a surge in the usage of digital technology by kids, some as young as 1- 2 years of age. Many DVDs and other digital products, for children aged between 12 months and 18 months, are aggressively promoted in the market.
The effect of technology on children has both benefits and drawbacks. Technology not just impacts the thinking pattern of the children, but because the brains of young children are still in the developmental process, continuous exposure to digital technology is reorganizing their brains in various ways than in prior generations. Researches show that, overuse of technology leads to the pruning and restructuring of the frontal cortex of the brain and thus affecting its function of impulse control.
Smith says that, the combination of the impulse driven nature of the social networking sites and the vulnerable emotional development of young children, can be combustible. Today children have instant access to data, and in some cases they access information much more than they actually need. Eighty percent of children in America, between the age group of 13 and 17, had access to an internet connection, according to a survey conducted by the Corporation for Public broadcasting in the year 2002.
In the past decade, screen media (TV, computer, cell phone, etc.,) have become widely available, and even young children have access to mobile phones. The American Academy of Pediatrics (APP) discourages the practice of increasing digital exposure to young children and urges the parents to regulate the number of hours a child is watching TV. In addition to this, AAP also advises parents that children should be enthused to indulge in other activities such as outdoor playing and social interaction.
Digital media is a large part in today’s children lives, and there is an urgent need to put in place systems that would aid the growth and development of the child, but at the same time offer social protection and health protection. Some experts also argue that the benefits offered by Digital media outweigh its negative consequences. Computing technology has proven to be very useful in education and training young children. Introducing digital technology in primary grades have proven to offer many benefits such as cost benefits, increased time on task, better interaction and higher motivational levels.
All the baby digital products aim at educating the child, in an entertaining way that obtains the child’s attention. The media industry informs the parents that they train the young minds to identify themes such as colors, shapes, language, etc. They insist that the digital media can help a child in a huge way in its brain development. However, many authoritative sources on pediatric studies stress on the fact that, the child brain growth is very rapid during the initial three years and this period, which is termed as the ‘sensitive period’, has a profound impact on the overall development of the child. Thus, parents have to be very careful on nurturing their child during this period, which cannot be duplicated later. They should make the correct choices during these years of child growth, as these choices have a huge impact in the long-term outcome of the child’s development process.
Apart from affecting the brain development, over exposure to digital technology is also believed to cause many harms such as social harm, social media addiction, visual problems, obesity, physical impairments, mental disorders and musculoskeletal disorder. While video games have been believed to promote visual scanning and hand-eye coordination, they also have harmful effects such as inculcating violent behaviors in young children.
Research shows that, 12% of young boys and 8% of young girls playing video games at a young age exhibit symptoms of addiction and pathological behaviors. Technology overuse may also result in sensory over –reactivity and long term exposure to electromagnetic radiation may cause brain tumor.
In the 21st century, where the digital technology has invaded all aspects of life, it is imperative that the child be computer literate. The impact of the internet in today’s world is unprecedented, and depriving computer literacy to children may affect their educational prospects. 85% of jobs in today’s employment market require some sort of technological skills and thus, one cannot take the digital media out of a child’s life completely. However, considering the adverse effects it has on the child’s development and personality, some parental control is definitely needed to regulate the digital exposure a child is subjected to, on this internet age.
This research aims to find out how do digital technology impact kids?
The data for this research will be collected from both primary and secondary sources. The secondary sources include existing materials on this subject like academic books, published articles, surveys and statistics. This research will call upon data collected from previously conducted researches, on the impact of technology on kids. While there is evidence that technology use has a positive impact on the cognitive development of the child, the research findings on the impact of technology on social skills of a child is mixed.
While the secondary data provides the basic premise for the research, the researcher felt the need for expanding it further, by collecting data about the children directly through questionnaire-based interviews with a selected sample. The sample selected includes parents and teachers of kids belonging to the age group of 5- 8 years, from the School district of Madera County in Los Angeles. The participants are chosen so that a sample is obtained, which is as representative as it can be, by including people from different educational backgrounds, socio-economic backgrounds, and geographic locations. The questions in the questionnaire will be explained in detail to the participants during the survey and translated when necessary, to obtain a comprehensive view of the topic in hand.
The research may have two outcomes – it might either prove that increased exposure to technology has a positive impact on the kids, or it might prove that technology exposure has a negative impact on kids. Based on these assumptions, the research hypotheses were formulated as given below.
H1: Digital Technology has an adverse effect on the social skills and personality development of kids.
H2: Digital Technology is an integral part of the modern day life and has many beneficial influences on the cognitive abilities of kids.
The participants of the survey are chosen from the middle/high socio-economic standard school district of Madera County, in Los Angeles. A total of 150 respondents will be interviewed in the course of the research. 45% of the sample belongs to the ethnic group of European Americans, 20% are African Americans, 10% are Asians, 15% are Latin Americans, and 10% belong to other ethnic groups. Out of them 80 are parents and 70 are teachers of kids, belonging to age group of 5 -8 from the following school districts.
- Alview-Dairyland School District – It has 2 schools with 346 students studying from KG till 8th grade
- Raymond Knowles Union Elementary School District - It has 2 schools with 79 students studying from KG till 8th grade
- Chawanakee Unified School District - It has 9 schools with 756 students studying from KG till 12th grade
The sampling will be done randomly, and the interview will be conducted through telephone, email and in person. The teachers who exclusively teach digital technology related subjects will be excluded from the survey, and only those teachers who take the aid of technology for teaching other subjects will be interviewed. Also, responses will be excluded from the analysis, when there are internal inconsistencies in the answers of the respondent.
The parents and teachers selected for the interview would be first approached, through an information letter and consent form for an invitation to be interviewed. (Appendix B) This letter would clearly explain the nature and purpose of the research, with the assurance that the information divulged by them would be kept confidential.
Data Analysis Technique
Both quantitative and qualitative analysis, of the data collected, would be carried out. Statistical Package for the Social Sciences or SPSS will be used for analyzing quantitative data. It is a type of software that helps researchers, to conduct statistical analysis, documentation, and information management. Owned by IBM, this software enables predictive analysis and problem solving. Most of the closed end questions will be analyzed using statistical measures. The relationship between the different variables will be measured using MANOVA (Multivariate Analysis Of Variance) technique. Histograms will be developed for the dependent variables, like social skills and cognitive development, to verify for normality.
A qualitative assessment of the data will be done through the help of Nvivo software. It is a software package, which enables researchers to analyze qualitative data, and is particularly useful while conducting in-depth analysis of large volumes of rich text based data. Creating nodes and coding are amongst the important steps in preparing a document for Nvivo analysis. Coding is the process of grouping the data with relevance to the topic. For example, in our research, the responses concerning the type of technological products used by the children can be selected and coded under the node ‘Type of technology’. Nodes can be termed as the containers of the coding. They act as a unifier of common information, and allow us to look for similarity in patterns and draw interpretation from them. The below given table is an example of a possible coding based on some nodes form the research topic.
The research tool that will be used for the primary data collection is a questionnaire based interview. A questionnaire is a concise and preplanned set of questions related to the topic of the research, given to a selected research sample to elicit their responses. This data collecting instrument can be both structured and unstructured, but for our research purpose we will use more of structured questions.
Most of the questions given would be closed ended questions, but a few open ended questions will also be thrown in the mix. Closed end questions will facilitate the researcher in recording measurable aspects of the research topic, such as number of kids with high technology access, number of children showing increased cognitive abilities when exposed to digital technology, etc. The responses obtained for these questions are easy to tabulate, measure, and interpret. The open ended questions will be helpful in, recording subjective responses and the suggestions and observations given by the parents/teachers. Though responses to such questions are difficult to summarize or tabulate, they allow for increased depth of response.
Interview was chosen as a tool for this research because of the convenience it offered, in recording qualitative data, and the flexibility it provided for the researcher to tweak the questions when necessary, to get the right responses. Researches show that children make use of technology from a very early age, for multiple purposes. According to a recent statistics, 51% of the kids born in the past decade start using digital devices at the age of 5-8, 30% of parents download specific apps for children, and 72% of parents perceive that the digital technology enhances the kids’ creativity and knowledge. The children’s choice of devices, purpose of use, and the time spent on it, all such aspects vary widely, which could be accurately measured only through a personal interview.
One of the main limitations of this study, is that the opinions of the children, themselves are not recorded. Though they are the main subject of the research, the children studied are too young, to be sharing meaningful opinions for the research purpose. Also since the parents and teachers are best placed to observe and comment on the child’s behaviors, and since the home/school practices shape the life of the children to a large extent, the researcher decided to record the opinions of parents and teachers.
A second limitation of the study is that, the geographic area of the research is limited to Madera County in Los Angeles. Though, the sample selected is chosen with care to be as representative of possible, by selecting parents/teachers of children with varied background (economic, ethnic and geographic), the sampling technique is restricted to a particular area and can’t be considered representative of the whole nation. In spite of these limitations, the research has as comprehensive a sample as possible and reflects the views and opinions of a diverse population.
- What is the level of child’s ownership of technology?
- High access
- Moderate access
- No access
- What are the digital products the child has access to?
- Do the child’s computer/other digital gadgets have internet access to it?
- Who is the primary caregiver of the child and what are his perceptions regarding child’s digital use?
- Comparing the child with children of his age group, how well does he/she fit into the following categories.
- Easy and adaptable
- Friendly and Sociable
- Fidgets and complaints
- Socially reclusive
- In general, how do you think has the digital exposure affected the child’s personality and interaction with others?
- Affected positively
- No effect
- Affected Negatively
- What is the school rules governing child’s use of technology?
- Do the school practices encourage the students to use digital technology in their academic activities?
- Highly encouraging
- Moderately encouraging
- Moderately discouraging
- Highly discouraging
- What are the differences in cognitive abilities of, the students who use digital technology extensively and who do not?
- For what purposes is the child allowed using digital technology?
- Problem Solving
- Information Retrieval
- Report Presentation
- Rate the following abilities of the child?
- Problem Solving
- Information presentation
- In general how has the exposure/non-exposure of digital technologies affected the child’s cognitive abilities?
a. The child exhibited increased cognitive skills
b. No change in the child’s cognitive skills
c. The child exhibited decreased cognitive skills
Note: Questions 1- 6 are for parents (H1) and questions 7- 12 are for teachers (H2).
At the outset let me thank you for agreeing to be a part of this research project, which will take place from .. To . This consent form will explain in detail the purpose of the research and your rights as a respondent.
The purpose of this research is to examine the ways and extent of technology’s impact on young children. The benefits of this study would be that, it would offer insights and interpretations into the impact of digital technology on kids, and suggest some effective solutions to regulate the digital exposure experienced by kids.
The methods that would be used to achieve this purpose would be, to review available literature on this subject, and conduct interviews with parents and teachers of children, belonging to the age group of 5- 8.
Please feel free to raise concerns at any time during the interview, and should you require any further clarifications you can contact me on the telephone number or email id listed below. The interview will be recorded for future review purposes, and the recorded transcript will be used only for the research mentioned. If you feel uncomfortable, you may ask to stop the recording anytime during the interview. You are also free to withdraw from the research anytime.
The insights drawn out of the interview would be read by my professor, and would be used in presenting a report for my xxx research methodology class. Your name and other identifying information would be maintained confidential.
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