Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Importance of Technology in Children's Lives Today

I read an article recently that talked about how comfortable kids are with the use of technology these days. The survey of 500 children stressed how important technology has become in the life of children nowadays.  
Well, I knew that much since I have two kids of my own but what I found interesting was that most six to fifteen year olds turn to Google to ask questions rather than their parents.
It was somewhat surprising. Don’t get me wrong. I definitely want my nine-year-old to be more independent and do at least some of the research himself, but it never occurred to me that even six-year-olds are turning to technology first and parents second. Do I like it? Not sure, still trying to figure that one out.  Teachers also didn’t do too well in the research conducted by Birmingham Science City. Only three percent of children would ask their teacher for an answer.
What’s more astonishing is the fact that most kids don’t know what an Encyclopedia is. Almost half of the children surveyed (45%) have never used a print encyclopaedia and nearly a fifth (19%) have never used a print dictionary.
Now here’s the clincher: “Guesses as to the strange 'encyclopedia' device’s function included that an ‘encyclopedia’ might be something you travel on or use to perform an operation.“
Hmmm. Not sure how to express my feelings on this one. This definitely made me bolt to my kids’ room. I really needed to know how my kids will fare, and I’m happy to say that my 9-year-old knows what an encyclopedia is and what it’s used for. BUT I certainly don’t have a print dictionary at home. Have been planning on buying one for a while but you know how busy our lives are today so haven’t gotten around to buying one. They definitely know how to use Webster online. I know this because I’ve shown them how to use it instead of coming to me all the time. So, I asked my older son thinking I already know the answer but I was pleasantly surprised, “Yes, Mom I know how to use a dictionary.”
Really! But how? I never showed him.
“I learned it in school.”
Then he went on to explain how to look up a word. He’s even used a print Thesaurus in school. My feelings: Bless The School!
Even my six-year-old knows what a dictionary is. He has one in his classroom. It’s entirely a different matter that he just flips through it; doesn’t really know how to use it. No worries. Flipping through pages is a good start. We’ll take it to the next level when I buy one or I’m sure school will come to the rescue.
The article went on to say that children regardless of the generation they grow up in are inquisitive by nature. Since technology has become so commonplace today, kids are comfortable using it. Use of technology and their comfort level may not be a bad thing.
I certainly don’t disagree that use of technology in itself is not a bad thing. But I do limit its use. I don’t want them spending too much time on iPad, laptop, and other electronic devices. I worry about the adverse impact it could have on their eyes. I also want them to write things down on paper rather than typing everything. There are clear advantages of longhand writing over typing for kids and adults.  Having said all this, I know there’s a place for technology. What’s important I believe is the safe use of technology.
So, I did my own research in this area and I found out that there are safe search engines for kids. May be you already know  about them but I was not aware.
Google’s Safe Search for Kids is a child friendly search engine. The safe browsing feature on this website overrides your computer search settings to help remove potentially explicit material when searching Google. I did use the tool and entered a few search terms to see if it really works. I’m not going to mention the terms here. You’ll have to come up with your own search terms. But happy to report it really works.
Quintura for Kids is powered by Yahoo. It gives a more visual way of searching using a keyword cloud. Quintura for Kids filters undesirable adult content. I typed in the word "dinosaurs" and related topics such as "types of dinosaurs", "prehistoric animals", “Science & Nature” etc. appeared in a cloud surrounding the original search term. You can click any of those results to narrow the search further.
Searchy Pants is another search engine that allows children, parents & schools to create a custom search home page for their children to use. You can customize your custom search page by adding background themes, links to your page, and post messages. Searchy Pants uses School Safe Search technology to prioritize delivering safe and suitable content.
Recently, Microsoft also launched a search engine for school students to search with ad-free and adult free content, through a program called “Bing for Schools.
Armed with my research findings, I called my older son to show him which search engines he should use. I had only started to say that there are search engines that are safe for kids to use. He nodded his head and told me that he already knows, and mentioned KidRex.
I had thought that I was introducing something new to him, but again school had beaten me to it!
Shabana Muhajir
Would you like to share your thoughts on this topic? Leave your comments below.

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