Are handhelds good for your child?

Nowadays, when you go outside, you will see a lot of children glued to a tablet or smartphone (usually an iPad or iPhone). They are watching it while eating their meals or even while walking. This generation is very different from when we were children. While these handheld devices can hold the focus of our children, let us consider if they can help our children’s learning.

Many people use tablets as educational tools, from national schools such as Crescent Girls Schools to private enrichment centres such as RG Channel Future School (yes, that is us). Many parents also use handhelds devices to entertain and educate their children. They download educational apps or allow their children to watch educational videos. If children ask parents questions they cannot answer, they also use the internet for research or encourage their children to look it up.

Indeed, handhelds can use be useful educational tools. In our previous blog post, you will realise that we use the tablet to deliver teacher-focused, student-focused, collaborative-focused and parent-focused lessons. We feel that this has improved our educational delivery and outcome.

However, we must also emphasise that while we use tablets in our school, they are only one of the many tools that we deploy. There are many instances where the tablet is superior in: delivering multi-media, multi-sensory presentations; instant feedback on multiple choice questions; and the ability to keep track of data. On the other hand, there are also many instances when traditional chalk and talk, hands-on learning and face-to-face interaction is better. In our CAL2 curriculum, we are more interested in using technology to enhance teaching rather than wholesale, mindless adoption of technology. If the technology does not enhance the learning experience, it will not be used.

How about the use of tablets at home? We have two words that all parents must remember – moderation and supervised.

Moderation is key to all handheld device use. There is a danger of overuse by children. Handhelds should not be used as a substitute for babysitters (just like the television set). Or if necessary because circumstances do not allow human intervention, the amount of time should be kept to a minimum. In other words, the use of handhelds must be in moderation. In many instances, there are probably better ways of engaging your child then putting a handheld device in front of his face. So, how long should children use a handheld device? Unfortunately, there is no magic number of how long should children use handhelds. If your child is below two, I will suggest you hold it off. For children of other ages, you might allow a maximum of 45 minutes to 1 hour on a school day and a bit longer on a non-school day. As for teenagers, I will suggest that you talk to them and fix an agreed time after they have completed all homework and other chores.

The second word is supervised. If your child is still young, do take note of what apps, games and videos they are using. It is best that you sit beside them when they are playing to understand what they are doing. You can then explain certain dangers to look out for to your children. Also, all these devices have ways of locking out adult content or restricting certain functions (like in-app purchases). Learn how to use these restrictions. In addition, all Internet Service Providers in Singapore have some form of parental control that will help as well. Involve yourself in their virtual world be a good role model yourself. So, do not just look at your phone during dinners if you do not want them to develop that habit.

In conclusion, go ahead and download those educational apps you see in online stores. Your child can learn and will learn from these apps, provided you do your duty as a parent to guide them and to control their device time.