6 Ways to Balance Two Needs: Human Interaction and Gadgets Mastery

Children’s programs in gadgets are usually attractive, fun, interesting and engaging. Due to their attractiveness, children are easily drawn into and spent long time using gadgets. These will make them absorbing what the programs offered. So, if the program is educational, children will learn a lesson material. If it is entertaining program, they will be entertained. Therefore, gadgets are beneficial for children and also for parents or teacher as alternative tools in teaching and keeping children engaged onto positive activity. That’s why we would allow children to use them often because we think they give our children and us advantages.
However, there are also other things to consider related with time spent in using gadgets. Before I explain about what I meant, I’m going to give you questions you need to think about. The questions are:
* Have you relied heavily on gadgets to keep your children engaged to activities whether they are educational or entertaining?
* Have you use gadgets to calm your children’s tantrums?
* Have you allowed your children to spend more time on using gadget than playing with their friends or interacting with family?
If the answers for those questions are yes, I’m going to give you a hypothetical situation and ask you another question. What if your children are so absorbed into gadgets and spend less time in doing real human interaction. Will it affect their social skills ability in the future?
I think this is an important question to ask, especially when it’s related with children under 5 years old. Within the age range, they learn everything for the first time, such as trying to perceive how their world work, learning about feelings and how to control them, knowing how to interact well with people (family, teacher, peers, etc) in their environment and so much more. Those are learned through hands on experiences which later on will be their guidance when they grow up. So, imagine this! If in their childhood, they don’t know how to interact well, will they be able to do it in the future? It’s unlikely. This would be a problem.
If that’s going to be a problem, should we stop giving gadgets to children? Of course that’s not the option. Gadgets are important things in today’s world. The use of them will increase way more than today in the future. Therefore, the ability to use them -besides social skills- is another important skill children need to master. Let’s also not forget about its educational benefit. So, what should we do?
Balancing both needs-human interaction and gadgets mastery- is the answer. To do that, there are ways we can do. The ways are:
1. Introduce gadgets and how to use them gradually.
* Start giving gadgets since children 2 years old. Before that age, give them opportunity to learn everything using their five senses through conventional methods such as playing toys, hearing story read by parents, exploring thing around the house, etc. Why it must start at 2 years old? Because in that age, they want to move independently (their physical development has enabled them to do this) and always curious about everything. If they see gadgets, they would want to look and try it. Curiosity needs to be nourished. That’s why, when they want to look at gadgets, give and show them, but show and choose correct programs suitable for 2 years old children.
* Then, for 3 years old children, we can teach them more how to use gadgets such as teach about basic features in the gadgets: make a phone call or video call (to family only), touch icons which are the shortcut for programs specifically used by them, etc. In that way, they learn how to use gadgets and know which programs they can play. They also won’t, by accidentally, open the programs not suitable for them. If you provide gadget for them only, this won’t be a problem, because you can download programs suitable for them only. However, don’t forget to install content filtering programs, to avoid you children accessing programs not suitable for them.
* As for 4-5 years old children, teach them more such as texting, take photo and how to save them, type on computer (use this activity to learn alphabet, numbers and read. In this way, they will get two advantages: know how to read and type), etc. Choose programs suitable for them and save useful website URL in the bookmark. So, it will be easier for them to open website, without having to search by themselves. Once again, it is necessary to avoid children opening unsuitable programs. Though content filtering software will do the work, but double protection is good, isn’t it? Better safe than sorry.
2. Limit the time of using gadgets.
Research about the time children should spend in using gadgets shows that it’s better for children to use gadgets no more than 2 hours a day. From my experience, I recommend for:
* 2-3 years old: max 15 minutes per using gadget, max 2 times a day. Unless it’s movie. They can watch more than 15 minutes, but limit one movie per day.
* 4-5 years old: max 30 minutes per using gadget, max 2 times a day. Unless it’s movie, but limit the amount of movie they can watch per day too.
I recommend differently with the research result, because from my experience in teaching children under 5 years old, I notice they learn more through hands on experiences. That’s why I recommend less than the research result, but later on as they grow, the time spent in using gadgets may be added as much as what revealed in the research.
3. Stay close/accompany them while they use gadgets.
Some researches about the effect on using gadget on children reveal that children who spend long time in using gadgets won’t get much negative effect as long as the parents supervised and guide them during that time. So, it’s important for adults (parents, teachers or caregiver) to supervise, guide, play gadget together and give explanations about what presented in the gadget. In this way, they won’t be absorbed completely into gadget. They will still interact with people when they use gadget. This will make them think that gadget is only tool for them to learn and get entertainment. It’s important and useful for them, but not as important as interacting with family and friends.
4. Do not use gadgets to resolve tantrums.
I know it’s easy to calm your children with gadget when they have tantrums. As I said earlier, due to gadgets’ attractiveness, children are easily drawn into them. Therefore, they would be calm. Yet, if they have been calm because of gadgets, it doesn’t mean that their tantrums resolved and won’t have the same tantrums in the future. It’s because you only divert the problem and not solve it. No matter how hard it is, never divert tantrums. They can be solved only through communication. Talk with your children, solve the problems, and teach them how to deal with tantrums. In this way, they will have skill how to deal and control emotion which is a very important one to master and related with their social skills.
5. Alternate gadget with other activities to make children engaged.
It is easy to give gadgets for your children in their spare time (when they are not at school and at that moment there are things you need to do. So, you’re not being able to accompany them). Yet, if that’s the case, it’s better if you ask your children to draw or do kinds of play such as: play manipulative toys, building blocks, pretend play, etc. Those activities are good to stimulate their creativity, imagination and practice their fine motor skill.
6. Use gadgets as the last resort related to educational function
there are so many educative programs in gadgets which are useful for children and helpful for us. Yet, it’s better if children learn about a lesson concept through communication first, before they use gadgets. From my experience of teaching, I notice something. Children learn about a concept not only by looking at the lesson material, by hearing the great sound from lesson audio or by doing exercises. What makes them understood the lesson easily is the teacher’s intonation, encouragement, body language and how teacher reacts to students’ needs and vice versa. So, basically it’s human interaction which happens between student and teacher that make teaching session worked. I think, that is something that gadgets couldn’t give. So, for example, you teach your children about alphabet. First step is teaching them using sand paper letter to make them able to know the letter shapes through their textures. After they know the letter through this method*, then you can give gadgets related with alphabet learning. This will emphasize what they already know through an attractive and fun way. In this way, the concept will be strengthened.
In conclusion, gadgets are attractive and beneficial for our children and us. Though, the more we use them, the more we absorb into it which sometimes make us forget to interact with other people in real life. If this happens with our children, they may not know how to interact with people which basically an important skill they need to master for their life in the future. Yet, abandoning gadgets is not an option too. In order to make children master both skills, we need to balance both needs, so children will get the most benefit of using gadgets and at the same time learn how to interact with people as well.
*It’s only an example of teaching alphabet to children. There are more methods to teach alphabet.

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