Have you ever noticed how precocious children are these days? Have you ever said to yourself, “Wow, children these days know so much more than I ever did at that age?” Every generation, appears to be “more advanced” than the generation before. For instance, in my parents generation, the majority of the population are unfamiliar with computers and struggle to learn how to use them (unless they worked with computers or had an interest in them, like my father). My generation was raised with computers and while many of us are sufficiently comfortable using them, our command on technology pales in comparison to the generation after us.
Why is this so? Because each new generation is exposed to more at an earlier age. Each new generation has a greater variety of resources available to them for learning. The television was the big difference between my generation and my parents’ generation. The accessibility to and variety of books helpes us expand our knowledge more easily and rapidly. If we wanted the answer to a question, we could go to the library and look it up.
However, because children today have computers, laptops, tablets, and smart phones, they have an abundance of information available at their fingertips. If they want the answer to a question all they have to do is “google it” and the answers are there. And because they have access to a computer and internet connection at home, they don’t even need to leave the house to find out the answers to their questions.
Children today have a multitude of books and other resources available to them that did not exist back in our time. The quality of television programs available to children today is far superior to the programs we had back in our day. When I was a child, Sesame Street was one of the few educational programs available on TV. Today, there are so many educational programs available that it is impossible to watch them all.
Children today aren’t only exposed to more educational toys but they have a greater variety of toys in the toy box to provide stimulation and encourage development. And although there are many parenting books that tell parents their children do not need such toys for adequate development, we cannot deny the impact of the availability of such toys on our children. While we know that the presence of an attentive caregiver is far more important than any object or toy, it cannot be denied that an attentive caregiver armed with appropriate educational tools for the child can do more to further that child’s development compared to an attentive caregiver alone.
It’s not unlike what Philip E Ross discusses in The Expert Mind about the differences between chessmasters of today versus the historical chessmasters. When using the USCF rating scale of today, it was found that many of the historical chessmasters were well below the level of the chessmasters of today. In fact, based on the rating scale used today, many old time masters would not even be classified as chessmasters. The reason for the apparent “superiority” of today’s chessmasters is because they have the benefit of resources such as computers and game databases to help them develop their chess skills. Historical chessmasters had no such luxury. Whatever they learned, they had to work out for themselves. So although the historical chessmaters were known to make more errors, they were also more creative.
And even though I used to squirm at the idea of using technology as a part of my children’s education and sometimes feel embarassed because my children are technology kids, I have come accept that technology is beneficial when used appropriately. You can choose to deny the existence of technology and shield your child from it, but it is like something a friend told me today – “This is their world.” Technology is a part of their world that they cannot escape from forever so rather than fear it and try to pretend it doesn’t exist, I think it makes more sense to use it intelligently to your child’s advantage. Of course it also goes without saying – “all things in moderation”. I’m not saying go nuts with technology, just don’t be afraid of exposing your children to it.