A Parent's Guide to Learning in the Digital Age

The technological advancements of the 21st century have changed nearly all aspects of modern life—including education. Working purely with textbooks, printed maps, and other physical resources was the norm for students until the 1980s and 1990s. 

Today’s students have a myriad of technologies at their fingertips that can make the learning process more captivating and convenient. However, not all devices on the market are equally beneficial to students. So which technologies can help or hinder an early learner’s growth? See below for a brief guide to learning in the digital age.   

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Digital technologies that can help

Electronic reading tablets 

Sometimes seen as “cooler” than traditional books, electronic reading tablets (such as the Amazon Kindle) can instill an early love of reading in your child. Such devices also make it easy for readers to discover the meanings of new words, take notes, and quickly skip pages. 

Additional benefits of electronic reading tablets are that they are lightweight and portable. Just take along the tablet and charger on any upcoming trips, and your child will be able to read comfortably from a variety of options. 

Digital storytelling 

Digital storytelling is the process of creating an original storybook online. Websites such as Little Bird Tales and Storybird allow young students to use their imaginations as they practice higher thinking skills. Students can also read the digital storybooks of other individuals around the world. In the case of writer’s block, students may get inspiration from the writing prompts that are also available. 

With Little Bird Tales, students can even record their voice to narrate their own stories. Both websites offer a free trial so students and parents can decide which is right for them.   

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Digital technologies that can hinder

Non-educational video games in excess

When played in moderation, age-appropriate video games can serve as an enjoyable outlet for children to destress and, in some cases, get exercise. But video games can quickly become addictive for people of all ages, and children are no exception. Video games should never take away from a child’s study, sleep, meal, and family time. 

Some studies have shown that children who play video games often are slightly more at risk for developing attention problems. Another has revealed that young gamers perform worse on reading tasks than their non-gamer classmates—but this may be because they substitute after-school reading time with game-playing time.

Devices without parental controls 

Children, who are naturally curious, may turn to the internet for answers to their many and varied questions. While there is nothing unnatural about this behavior, parents should be vigilant about their children’s browsing habits. 

Any device with internet capability but without parental controls could be a danger for children. A simple online search can unearth inappropriate, violent, and generally traumatizing results for an impressionable child. Opt for preventative solutions, such as apps and software with parental control features built in.

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When used properly and in moderation, technology can offer benefits to the user. Parents should use discretion about which technologies to introduce to their children, and supervision once those technologies are in the child’s possession.  

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