Are You Raising A Zombie Or A Wizard?

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That depends on who you talk to. Electronic gadgets seem to be a very touchy subject that elicit either awe or disdain. Some believe using tablets, video games and smart phones turn children in to addicted zombies while some others believe that merely using these devices makes your child a wiz kid.

Who is correct?

In my opinion, neither. Just like, simply using a knife does not automatically make you either a great chef , or a diabolical murderer.

Since the first microchips were developed in the early fifties, electronic technology has progressed in great leaps. We are at the cusp of an electronic technological revolution; a very exciting time. In a short period of 60 odd years computers, have been miniaturized from the size of apartments to the size of our palms. They have also become orders of magnitude more powerful. Von Neumann, himself could not have imagined smart phones in his wildest, most optimistic dreams.

Yet these electronic gadgets are simply tools, to be used by us. They are neither saints nor villians. There is no point being suspicious of them or in awe of them. Rather, it is best to learn to use them in a way that makes your life most productive.

Like anything else gadgets should be used in moderation. Own your gadgets, don't let them own you. There is nothing new about this idea and this has nothing to do with how smart gadgets are.

For example food is very important to growth and development but eating too much makes you obese and sick. This does not make food either saintly or evil. The effects it has, depends on how it is used. The same goes for gadgets.

Avoid Addiction

Learning to use electronic gadgets proficiently, can make one's life significantly more productive. But they should be used with a purpose in mind. They can even be used for the purpose of entertainment, as long as one exercises self control and discipline in the matter. The reason some gadgets can be addictive, is that, they make entertainment easily available with the tap of a finger. One must therefore consciously impose self control and discipline in using gadgets for entertainment. Remember to be the master of your gadgets, not a slave to them.

Gadgets can be teachers

On the other hand it is important to learn to use gadgets in ways that make your life richer. For example you can use smart phones, recording devices and computers to teach your children many things in a fun way.

Learning to program is a great way to learn logic and structured thinking. Video games help you improve hand eye co-ordination and reflexes. Some computer games help you learn strategy and foresight. Some guide you through building model societies, where you have to balance various parameters for an optimal outcome. This type of game teaches you the importance of balance and prioritizing.

Some multiplayer games allow you to play with other people from all around the world through the internet. Such an interaction can be a learning experience too.

If your children have artistic aspirations there are many forms of digital art to experiment with. Digital photography, digital architecture, digital music are other areas in which electronic gadgets are the tools that pave the way to realizing dreams.

Do it yourself (DIY) videos and blog posts teach arts and crafts. Online recipes and videos teach cooking for a wide variety of cuisines.

Don't be misled

With the internet, gadgets help you access all kinds of information at the touch of a finger. There are great advantages, to such easy access to information. However under these circumstances, it is also very important to learn critical thinking. Often information is presented in a misleading manner so as draw a particular response. So it is important to gather multiple sources of information and perspectives on any issue.

Stay focused

The internet has a plethora of information and hyperlinks. It is easy to get distracted and go off on a tangent. While lateral thinking and exploring is good it is important to stay focused on the task at hand to be productive and efficient. According to this article it is possible that excess use of the internet causes people to exhibit ADHD like behavior.

Social media and IM

Social media, instant messaging (IM) and videochats are a great way to stay connected with extended family. Kids today can see and talk to their grandparents everyday even if they live in a different country, thanks to cheap video chatting via the internet. They can share experiences and pictures with extended family and stay connected. But just like we tell our kids not to talk to strangers, we should caution them against interacting with strangers on the internet. Dishonesty, deception and foul play are harder to detect in this medium, so in my opinion, parents should verify the identity of the people their kids chat with or IM. I also believe, it is better if kids get parental consent before posting on public forums, because kids often cannot fathom the public reach and long term consequences of their posts.

Finally electronic technology is like any other tool. It is new and exciting and opens many new possibilities, avenues of exploration and has the potential for great benefits to be harnessed. It also opens up many new possibilities of misuse and harm. But, I believe, the old time tested maxim of, using in moderation, still holds. Our children are likely to mirror our attitude towards technology. If we use technology in moderation to enrich our lives, so will they.

Don't you think so? How do you feel about electronic gadgets?

Tags: learn, learning, games, kids, parenting, internet