As technology use becomes increasingly prevalent in everyday life, the debate about how innovative, tech-based learning methods can best benefit our children persists. Technology is typically a polarising topic, with rhetoric on it’s impact and effectiveness on early childhood learning either staunchly supportive or screen free. Thus, the recurring question is, “which is the best approach?” 

When used effectively, technology can be extremely powerful. As schools and tertiary learning evironments continue to adapt to the online space, it is important that parents begin to consider how to incorporate technology into their child’s learning.

Here are five tips for ensuring that our children have the skills to safely and responsibly navigate an increasingly technological world:

  1. What is best for my family?
    By shielding our children from technology we’re also denying them the benefits that effective use can provide them with. Consider how comfortable you are with technology, and your family values. Talk to your children and work together to create a set of Family Tech Rules, that everyone can agree on.
  2. Technology is not a babysitter
    When things get hectic, it’s just so easy to let a game or video look after our children… Technology may be the ultimate babysitter, but when used in this manner, children learn to catagorise usage as a purely recreational activity. This association is hard to break, and can be carried forward into school and beyond.
  3. Technology should always have a purpose
    Every time you allow your child to use a device, consider why they are using it. Are you providing them with the opportunity to learn and practise a skill, or is access to technology a reward? Try to separate tech-based learning from “fun” by restricting certain activites to different devices. The computer or tablet for example, may only be for work and school, while the television can be used for films and games.
  4. Learn first, play later
    There are many ways in which technology can enhance our children’s education. Their learning experience doesn’t need to be restricted to books and the classroom! Visit your preferred app store to discover all of the amazing digital resources available for children. Plan ahead. Spelling and maths games are highly interactive, and perfect for long car trips!
  5. Augment, not replace
    A reading app will never replace the magic of parent and child discovering a new story together. Technology should augment our lives, not replace the most important parts.

When used correctly, our children can thrive with the addition of technology in their lives. As with any other area of development however, we need to be proactive. Learning starts at home, so it is our responsibility as parents, to lay the foundations.

This post originally appeared as an article in the Monaro Post newspaper. Craig Moore is an IT professional, working within the education sector.