Article by Natalie Corcoran | Photography by Kayla Jubb | Owl Staff

The beginning of 2012 brings handheld personal assistants, cars that drive themselves, and “books” that are digitally read. 20 years ago, you went to someone’s house to see what they were doing and to catch up with them. Now, you don’t even need to talk to them because all of their information and updates on life are available at your fingertips. Adults are the ones that demand these products and keep them coming, but children still need to be taught the basics from the start.

While technology can provide a different medium for children to learn from and can be exciting, it needs to be introduced slowly, and monitored daily.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 68 % of children under the age of two watch on screen media every day. Between birth and age 2, it is imperative that children are read to and provided with actual books that they can touch and see; they need to interact with hands on learning toys to benefit their growth and development. Instead of playing games on their parent’s iPad, they should be playing with toys that teach them how to match shapes and fit the shapes into the correct slot.

“74% of parents with children five to ten years old choose to spend ‘family time’ in front of the television, according to a recent survey of 1600 parents conducted by the YMCA.”

A child’s youngest years are the most important for building the foundation for the rest of their lives. What they experience and observe of the world around them, they are going to build upon as they grow older. Instead of a child discovering a book for the first time at age eight, they should be discovering that they can use a computer that allows them to make their own story. In 2011, non-profit organizations, Joan Ganz Cooney Center and Sesame Workshop, reported that nearly 80% of children between birth and age five use the Internet on at least a weekly basis in the United States.

Parents should model appropriate behavior and make sure that they, themselves, are not always on their phones or computers. Children are watching their parents’ every move and want to emulate their parents’ actions. Put the phones down and take a walk. Show children the sights and sounds of the world, instead of learning about it on television. A recent survey conducted by the YMCA with more than 1,600 parents of children ages five to ten found that 74 percent opt to spend family time with their kids by sitting in front of the television.

Eventually, children are going to be teenagers and they are going to have a cell phone or only read their books on a Nook; but until then, teach them where you came from: the life before cell phones, tablets, internet, laptops, e-readers and digital personal assistants.

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