We can use technology to help children to learn

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Last week I jumped on the technological bandwagon and got an iPhone.

I have, in the space of a week, found myself absorbed into a tiny palm-sized world that I used to mock others for immensely.

Checking e-mails 24/7 would make me tut. Downloading useless apps? Pah! How can you let a phone take over your life? I would scoff, feeling somehow proud of my dented Nokia from the last century with its unyielding buttons, tiny screen and complete lack of multi-media facilities.

It is a brand new world for me to have internet access while walking round a supermarket or en route to school.

I’ve found myself saying things that were largely irrelevant to me before, like ‘what is your Wi-Fi password?’ I didn’t even know what 3G was up until last week. I’m still not 100 per cent sure.

And then there is another new sentence that frequents my days - ‘can I play on your iPhone mum?’

Straight away he, with all of his six years of wisdom, knew how to operate it much better than I, who couldn’t even work out where to put the SIM card.

With the kind of sigh and pitiful expression you reserve for simple folk, he gestured for me to hand it over as he proceeded to show me how it was done.

In the search for information on how healthy iPhones are for children and what other parents thought about usage, I found, unsurprisingly, varying views.

Some felt that children have technology too young, leading to a loss of the art of real communication, while others saw it as an important part of life and that to resist it because we either don’t understand it or simply don’t like it would be to hamper their natural development.

I came across one particularly negative view of children and technology from professor of psychology Dr Jim Taylor, who describes the evil iPhone as the ‘Swiss Army knife of parental expediency’ with its ‘myriad child-mollifying apps’.

According to Dr T, we are too quick to abuse the convenience of technology, which apparently allows us parents to do important grown-up things such as talk to other adults, bathe, or have a Martini.

I did agree with some of his views, though maybe not in their extremes. Children do need to learn that sometimes they must just sit patiently and be respectful of others. If every time we want them to be quiet we whip out our phones to keep them entertained, then we’re not teaching them very good social skills.

As he also suggested, technology-dependent children could lose their initiative and ability to learn how to source their own entertainment.

Yet love it or hate it, you can’t deny it. We live in a world where much of what we do is sourced, finalised or done in its entirety through computers.

But, like with other devices such as television and game consoles, it isn’t all about mind-numbing entertainment. If we are clever we can utilise this technology with the right games and apps as tools to help our children learn.