At What Age Should Kids Be Exposed To Technology? [We Ask You]

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Those of us over a certain age will likely have been shocked at least once over the past few years from seeing someone very young using technology that didn’t even exist when we were their age. It’s surely a startling sight to see a 6-year-old using a computer, or a 10-year-old tapping away on a smartphone. Or perhaps I’m just old and liable to being startled easily.

Seeing kids using cutting-edge technology is certainly a relatively recent development. But I guess it isn’t a surprising one. After all, the technology exists, parents own it and (over)use it, and so kids are likely to want to follow suit prematurely. Should this be something we embrace? Or should kids be encouraged to leave technology alone until they’re old enough to fully embrace it?

This Week’s Question…

We want to know, At What Age Should Kids Be Exposed To Technology? We’re using “technology” as a catch-all term, but we’re really talking about new technology. Television sets have been around for a long time, so they don’t count. But smartphones and tablets are relatively new innovations, so seeing young children using them as though they’ve been around for forever is more surprising.

How young is too young for a child to be handed a smartphone? Would you let your child use a laptop or desktop computer? If so, are they trusted to go online without supervision or is their use heavily guarded to ensure the seedier parts of the Internet are avoided?

Do you encourage your children to play outside or are you happy for them to stay in and play video games all day? If so, do you worry about them playing online and meeting unsavory individuals?

Tell us your story, or recount a story from a family member of friend. If you don’t have a story to tell, just tell us at what age you think kids should be exposed to technology. If indeed you think there even should be a minimum age limit.

Drawing Conclusions

All comments will be digested to form conclusions in a follow-up post next week where we will detail what You Told Us. One reader will be chosen for the coveted Comment Of The Week, getting their name up in lights, the respect of other readers, and 150 MakeUseOf points to use for MakeUseOf Rewards. What more motivation than that do you need to respond?

We Ask You is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. The questions asked are usually open-ended and likely to necessitate a discussion. Some are opinion-based, while others see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps to fellow MakeUseOf Readers. This column is nothing without you, as MakeUseOf is nothing without you.

Image Credit: Paul Inkles

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Comments (100)
  • Becca Wright

    We as parents got into the internet when it was 3.11. I have taught my kids all at a young age. Now, its available in today’s technological world. We supervised and coached them about the dangers. Our kids also had all the games-online or off, etc. Our kids were still active in playing outside with there friends. We also did family activities. Boy Scouts and Girls Scouting, sports. Teaching them is a parents job. Not the world.

  • Hsiung

    When ‘kids’ or ‘anyone without intellectual skills’ have access to technology, they won’t be able to discern useful information from opinions on everything they read or view on videos posted on social media Web sites. A ten-year-old girl next door spends much of her after school hours watching soaps from her mother’s tablet, unsupervised. She went to a decent private Catholic school, so I assume her teachers are paid well to teach her manners and give her a proper education. But I do overhear her cursing at her brother, using those phrases likely learned from the soaps. Fortunately, I am no parent, but I am an educator. The pupils in my classrooms are supervised so that they only go to the instructed Web sites or approved sites during free time on their computers. I monitor their monitors on my teacher’s master monitor and block any monitor’s activity when a pupil enters an inappropriate site. Not surprisingly, many pupils don’t want to be controlled as to where they can browse, but I take my responsibility for my pupils’ action in my classroom. Do all parents or caregivers do the same for these toddlers or teenagers at home? You decide.

  • byron

    I think probably not at all before age 6 and very, very limited until age 15.

    I have noticed that these youngest people are forgetting how to talk to each other. Using technology can be very beneficial, but it can also lead to isolation from other people. If you can buy everything online, get all your entertainment online and even work from home through the internet, that can be very isolating. Even technology that purports to ‘connect’ people can blunt the development of ‘people skills'; for instance, if you are texting, you can not pay attention to the other party and read their response only when you feel like it. In a real conversation, you are forced to focus on them and react in real-time.

    we have enough anti-social types running around. I think that unfettered access to technology before one has developed socially will only exacerbate this problem.

  • Mel Johnson

    In general, I believe that age 7 is when a child’s brain is developed to the point that screen-time isn’t too damaging. Obviously, this is a totally unsupported statement. I remember years ago reading (I couldn’t tell you where now) that until age 7, a child’s brain is meant to stay in creative play and exploration, and is not suited to or even capable of intellectual activity. Screen time squashes creativity in the brain.

    My observations of kids using technology earlier than age 7 supports what I’ve read. I watch the young kids in my life, and when they play much on a phone or laptop, they become very lethargic, grumpy, uncooperative, even moody (almost depressive — and I think in fact their brain activity has been “depressed”).

    Yet when I see kids a bit older using the same things, they come away from it less affected. You still have to pull them away, but it isn’t as difficult.

    I also wonder about the effect on their eyes and other senses, and of course, I think all day in, playing video games or anything sedentary, is only going to exacerbate the already rampant epidemic of obesity and the accompanying health conditions (diabetes, hormonal imbalances, etc).

    Use of technology, especially playing games on phones and laptops, is also so addictive, I don’t think young kids can really handle it. Frankly, I don’t think most anyone can handle it, myself included! (Where do those hours go when I’m playing my favorite games?) I can hear myself justifying as I go, just as the kids do – just one more, just to that level, just to this score!

    And I certainly believe a parent or guardian needs to be monitoring activity until they are out of the house, just for safety sake! Way too many predators out there to not do your due diligence on that score! Difficult, I know, but as important as keeping them securely seat-belted or car-seated in a vehicle. Basic safety necessity.

    Thank you for asking these question though, these topics are of great importance now! Best, Mel

  • Lisa Santika Onggrid

    Children should be introduced to technology as early as possible, BUT after they meet real book and paper. Do not make them too reliant to technology, but let them know various things you can do with a device. The term technology here doesn’t apply to ‘click, click, win’ casual games, mind you (no offense to those who like these kind of games. I just think it’s not good to introduce them to this first). Expose them with computer/tablet, let them explore by their own. I love console games as a child–I still do, but I think I’m fortunate enough to be exposed with books first and grew reading habit. This way a child will understand technology, how to use them wisely, and have decent attention span (hopefully). I meet internet when I was 5 and began learning computer at 7. Most of things I know came from trial-and-errors and lots of reading.

    • Dave Parrack

      I’m still an advocate for printed books, but the way things are going I cannot see them being a thing in 20-30 years time. The thing is, kids may read more if the books were available in digital form and capable of being dipped in and out of, so eBooks aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

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For more details, please read our disclosure.