iBubs turn techno toddlers

Three-year-old Matisse Leavy and brother Rio show their skills.
Three-year-old Matisse Leavy and brother Rio show their skills. Nicholas Falconer

MOST new parents are horrified when their little angels forego the latest, most colourful toys that whirr, spin, jingle and sing to play instead with the boring brown cardboard box they came in.

According to one expert, that may not be such a bad thing if the toy in 2011 is a tablet computer, and your child isn't yet old enough to walk.

With the rise of information technology in the past few decades, the age that children are exposed to the latest advancements in computers seems to be dropping, as toddlers start playing with their parents' smart phones and tablets.

The question is whether or not all this technology is beneficial for the little ones, and if so, what effect it has on their development?

Kuluin mother-of-two Yvette Adams referred the Daily to a video clip of a one-year-old getting frustrated when her magazine would not work in the same way as her iPad "toy" did.

The magazine's pages didn't turn magically by a simple flick of a tiny index finger.

But, Yvette also said her four-year-old daughter Matisse Leavy had no problems at all navigating her way around her parents' Blackberry phone, iPhone, laptop and iPad.

"She uses everything," Yvette said.

"I just can't wait to see what (her Year 1) teachers say.

"I reckon she's got a bit of a headstart.

"(Matisse can't read yet but) she certainly recognises words and letters, and shapes and colours."

Yvette said she carefully monitored her children's use of information technology, and made sure that they used predominantly educational applications on their different devices.

"I do think iPads are wonderful for kids," she said.

But University of the Sunshine Coast Associate Professor in education Michael Nagel said he did not believe tablets and similar technology had any educational benefits for very young children.

"From a learning standpoint, to be honest, I don't know what the point (of early adoption of tablet use) is," he said.

"(And) a lot of kids will get more entertainment out of a cardboard box."

Prof Nagel said very young children learned best from the real world through play, exploration and quality interactions with adults.

"Get them into a playground, talk to them lots, listen to them and respond to them," he said.

"Relationships that are positive and loving, and opportunities to play and explore are more powerful than anything that (technology leader) Apple can give us."

Owner of Rosemount website design company Pomo creative, digital culture blogger and mother-of-two Lisa Harrison said she believed her young children did benefit from their technology use, and like Yvette, emphasised the benefits of being a tech-savy young person in the information technology age.

Lisa also does research into the influence of technology on young people, and is a keen advocate for information technology guidance and safety lessons for children.

She recommended that for healthy technology use, parents should ensure children spent the same amount of time accessing technological devices as traditional media.

Lisa said they also should teach kids not to reveal personal details online, and keep a set time and space free of technology - such as a child's bedroom - to allow them to process each day's events in peace.

"Also, making sure I know what they are looking at when they are on those devices," Lisa said.

Yvette said she believed that it was not a question of whether or not to teach kids about technology, but simply when to start.

"You can just keep resisting it, but the fact is, technology is here to stay," she said.

Topics:  children smart phone tablets technology

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