The student news site of Sacred Heart Academy

The Alethea

The student news site of Sacred Heart Academy

The Alethea

The student news site of Sacred Heart Academy

The Alethea

Technology for Young Children: Helpful or Harmful?

An Editorial by Sarah Smith

Nowadays, it’s no surprise that many parents feel as if technology is the only way they can keep their young children quiet. Since adults have to deal with things like their jobs and other responsibilities, they can’t spend every minute of every day giving all of their attention to their young children, who can’t exactly find things to keep themselves busy with on their own. So as an act of desperation, many parents rely on technology, including things like iPads and smartphones, to get the job done. But many people have always had the question on their mind, of whether a frequent use of technology could be helpful or harmful to the development of young children, and it seems while having access to technology can help them stay happy, and help them with learning, this comes at a price, which is a negative effect on their development.

To start off, you have to understand why parents would give their young children access to technology, if it is supposed to be bad for them. Well, in an article written by Christina Caron, and published by The New York Times titled, “Is it Too Soon to Give My Kid a Tablet”, she writes, “A little distraction can ease the tedium of car trips, air travel, and other potentially hair situations.” If you’ve ever been on a plane, or any other form of public transportation, you know how tedious it can be to have a kid crying or throwing a tantrum. It’s no fun for anyone on board, and it’s especially no fun for the parents who have to deal with it. To save themselves the embarrassment, and to save the other passengers’ ears, they provide their young children with technology to keep them quiet. This also applies for their everyday lives. Many parents don’t have the luxury of having enough free time to spend playing with their kids to keep them entertained. As a personal example, I have a younger sister who owns her own iPad, despite only being two years old. The reason why she was given her own, when most people usually get them when they’re older, is because it helps to keep her calm, especially when we’re in public, and especially when my mom is busy with work. My parents felt the need to get her an iPad because of how helpful it can be, which is how many other parents feel as well.

Now that you know why so many parents give their kids technology at such an early age, you can now understand why doing so is a bad idea. One of the main reasons why many people believe technology and young children is a bad idea is because of how distracting it can be. And this was believed to be an issue, even in the beginning. In 2013, ABC News published an article titled, “Toddlers Obsessed with iPads: Could It Hurt Their Development”. The first iPad was released in 2010, which means that even in the beginning, people were doubting they could positively influence young kids. The article describes an experiment held at Barnard College, where several young children, as well as their reactions to using traditional toys versus an iPad were observed. Researchers would test for what they called “distractibility”. They would call the names of the children in the experiment to see if they’d respond while using the iPads, and according to the article, “Many of the kids were so zoned in on the apps they were playing with, they didn’t respond to the researchers at all.”  The iPads were so distracting to the point when the kids refused to respond to someone calling their name.

But the opposite happened once the iPads were taken away. When this happened, researchers saw the kids become more verbal, more social, and more creative. What the experiment proved was that iPads are extremely distracting for young kids, and they thrive without the frequent use of technology. This idea is also backed up by an article published by The Washington Post titled, “Researchers: Using an iPad or Smartphone Can Harm a Toddler’s Learning and Social Skills”. It featured information about researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine publishing a journal about the potential harmful effects of technology use for young children. The article mentioned that researchers specifically believed that empathy and problem-solving skills would be affected, with information from the journal, that was included in the article reading, “Kids acquire that capacity by playing and interacting with peers and exploring their immediate surrounding. ‘If these devices become the predominant method to calm and distract young children, will they be able to develop their own internal mechanisms of self-regulation’”, which emphasizes how technology can cause kids to have issue developing the skills they need for them to thrive as they grow up.

Another reason why people believe young children having access to technology isn’t a good idea is because of the fear that children could find something they shouldn’t. In an article titled, “The Messy Truth About Kids’ Screen Time”, published by The New York Times, and written by Shira Ovide, who uses her own daughter as an example, includes an instance where she left her four-year old daughter alone while she was watching videos of French songs on her tablet, and when she returned, she found her daughter watching YouTube videos that included toys acting out badly scripted lines. She describes this by writing, “If you pay no attention to what your children do online, they could find some bad corners of the internet.” In this case, what Ovide’s daughter found wasn’t necessarily bad, but if she managed to get from one type of video to another, who knows what other children have found while having unrestricted and unsupervised access to the Internet.

So, if technology is so bad for young children, is there a possible solution to replace it? Well, no. This is because, again, one of the main reasons for them using it is because it keeps them occupied during times when having someone to play with isn’t possible, or they just can’t do anything else to keep themselves occupied. Ovide words it perfectly, by saying in the same article, “Maybe playing outside isn’t available or is unsafe, and some parents need their children to be on a screen while they juggle work and other responsibilities”. Things like iPads provide a distraction that keeps kids calm and quiet, and in some cases, it isn’t easy to just take away the technology, because of how distracting it is. But there are things that could be done to improve its use. Ovide writes in her article, that she loves apps from Toca Boca and Sago Mini, companies who make game apps for children, that “encourage young children to explore open-ended games without much instruction”, which means that there is a positive aspect to young children using technology, in the form of apps that are not harmful or too distracting for them.

Our world is, and always will be, a world of technology. There will never be a time when we don’t rely on it, and new technology is being created every day. Children in this generation will never grow up without technology, whether it is present in their schools, or in their homes, and while we know that technology has been extremely helpful, it could also have the potential to be harmful, especially for young children, by negatively impacting their development, and leaving them at risk of discovering something they shouldn’t while on the Internet. Personally, I have seen both sides of the argument surrounding its use. My sister’s iPad has been helpful, since it helped her learn things like her colors, but because of its addictive nature, she is extremely reliant on it to stay happy, and taking it away from her has what seems like grave consequences, which are her tantrums. We can’t eradicate the use of technology amongst young children, because so many parents rely on it as a means of keeping their children calm, just like my sister. So, the best thing we can do is find ways to improve the use of technology for young children, like guiding them towards apps and other aspects of technology that are helpful, rather than harmful.

For more information, you can read the following articles to learn more:

Researchers: Using an iPad or smartphone can harm a toddler’s learning and social skills – The Washington Post

Is It Too Soon to Give My Kid a Tablet? – The New York Times (

Toddlers Obsessed with iPads: Could It Hurt Their Development? – ABC News (

The Messy Truth About Kids’ Screen Time – The New York Times (


More to Discover