Our Chief Education Officer, Daisy Ng, was recently invited to BFM to share her thoughts on kids having personal tech devices of their own. Read on for excerpts of that insightful interview!
When it comes to screen time and owning a personal tech device, it’s a hot topic among parents and educators alike. Questions like these pop up: How much is too much? And how early or late should we begin to introduce our child to tech devices? If we hold them back, would we be stifling their learning development in tech?
It has turned into a discussion, and in some cases, dispute with dividing camps.
Even tech giants and founders of massive tech companies realise how detrimental tech devices can be when children are exposed to them for too long. Bill Gates even shared in an interview how he decides when it’s the “safest” time for his kids to have their own tech devices.
Other tech icon parents, like Jennifer Zhu Scott, a Hong Kong-based tech executive and TED speaker, would even come to a midpoint by offering a user agreement before her children got their first phone.
With the lingering effects of the pandemic, many schools and institutions switch to online learning, which has further thinned the line when it comes to devices.
With her experience as a parent & educator, Daisy was invited for a short chat with BFM and shared her thoughts. Let’s hear what she has to say:
1. At what age or stage of life should children have personal tech devices and why?
She admits that she leans over the camp of delaying for as long as possible. iPad came out the same time her eldest was born. But even then, from all her reading and preparation for motherhood, instinctively she knew she would raise her child the good, non-tech way.
To be fair to her other two children, she continues doing so, not letting them have their own devices until much later. She focused on developing their fundamental motor skills through other ways such as spending time on reading, singing, and affection from both parents.
When they reached primary school age, only then they started using technology as part of their school curriculum. Even though it was a steep learning curve for them, she said that children pick up things and learn fast.
2. What role does tech play for children, especially in light of the pandemic?
Through the pandemic, we can see how online learning or remote learning became the forefront and go-to tool for schools and learning institutions all over the country and even the world.
While digitisation in education is not something new, the pandemic nudges us urgently; teachers and schools to level up on integrating tech as a medium for teaching. As information and programs become digitised, the array of choices for learning also becomes more comprehensive for our children.
For example, one could host an art workshop with an esteemed instructor from neighbouring countries via a video conference call. That was something that Daisy and her team at Trinity Kids Malaysia made happen.
They went digital since the first MCO and maintained a hybrid of online and in-person learning up until now.
She also shared that there were initial concerns about younger children not adapting well to digital learning. Her team considered their feedback and adjusted them into their lesson plan to improve the learning experience. They received positive feedback after that.
From what she sees, tech became a tool for families to manage family health profile and risk exposure. At the same time, it also helps in ensuring continuous learning development for the child.
3. Has the shift to remote learning changed how you saw the relationship between children and tech today?
The pandemic led us to jumpstart their online learning experience and boost their tech skills as the children turn to digital learning. While there are benefits to incorporating tech into their lives and their learning experience, it can also bring about detrimental effects if done without much consideration.
In her line of work, she has seen first-hand the detriments of early access to gadgets. She noticed delays in children, especially in developing their motor skills and writing skills. They also demonstrated a shorter attention span, and consequently, slower progress during in-person learning.
Reading takes a sideline as well. Other competing factors take away their pre-reading skills. They show a preference for entertaining, bright, loud videos instead. Parents are also reading less because of busyness, so maybe their child picked up on that from them; their primary role model.
With schools continuously disrupted due to the pandemic, our child finds other ways to cope. They may be shifting that frustration and feelings online with their peers instead. When they’re not fleshing out their thoughts or articulating them accordingly without reverting to emojis, we may raise a generation with trust issues and unable to communicate openly.
Prolonged exposure to tech in learning is not an equal substitute. As humans, we naturally want to socialise in person, so online education has its limits. It may impede our learning and growth development the way nature intends.
4. Should parents know their password and child’s digital presence?
Daisy agrees to supervise our child’s digital presence as they may access the content they shouldn’t. They’re still young and learning, so they can conduct an act they do not fully understand the consequences of the action.
After all, a child is a work in progress, and it’s normal to make mistakes. Parents need to correct and provide guidance as they learn. So, how does one expect parents to guide if they don’t have visibility of their child’s activities online?
Supervising can be done positively. Daisy shared some examples, including becoming friends with your child online, and being someone they can turn to. She added that it’s also an excellent opportunity to bond with our child.
5. As the new generation becomes digital natives, should there be content designed for children, and how can we regulate their tech and usage?
Creating content or social media app geared for kids is about regulating different content when you think about it. While it is in good intention, an alternate version of content or social media made for kids may not see a higher engagement or usage.
Daisy highlighted a better suggestion instead — try using the existing social media app or platforms but keep an eye out to monitor languages and activities to pick up on cyberbullying or cybercrime targeting children.
In terms of having earlier exposure and controlling their usage, they are two different points. Indeed, we cannot deny that our child is exposed to tech earlier than we used to. But we have the power to do something to regulate the content they access and the duration of use.
She highlighted that one way is to limit their time and to clarify the purpose of internet usage. While it’s not direct causation, but it certainly helps. The less they have, the more selective they have to be over their choice of content.
While personal tech is not necessarily a bad thing altogether, it’s still important for parents and educators alike to be mindful about exposing them too early.
For starters, you can consider limiting tech devices usage for only school or research purposes. Have conversations, set guidelines and help them build healthy digital habits and boundaries first before investing in personal tech devices for them.
However, it’s essential to remember that while digital learning is a great tool to have, it’s not an equal substitute for our child’s learning and growth development.
The key is to prioritise fundamental skills such as motor skills development before introducing tech to our children. And it also helps to be more creative in creating learning opportunities without reverting to the screen.
While our reasons and situations may vary, especially in cases like a pandemic, it’s helpful that we consider all these factors to decide when is the best time to introduce personal tech devices to our child.
If you would like to listen to the conversation again, you may head over to https://www.bfm.my/podcast/enterprise/enterprise-biz-bytes/ent-bb-kids-tech
Gifted Kids Asia Research is passionate about nurturing gifted kids through invested parenting. If you’re keen to learn more about how to optimise your child’s intelligence and potential, you can check out the carefully crafted programs and courses we have in store.