Is technology changing child development?

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Three insights within the past month.

Firstly, a training session for senior leaders about child development. The headteacher leading the session disclosed that she has parents who wait for their children outside the school each day, with a younger sibling who is still in a push chair. The push chair has been set up so that the toddler in it can play on a tablet. The parent is usually on their mobile phone, and always has headphones on.

Secondly, during a refreshment break a CPD session at an excellent primary school, the children were streaming out because it was the end of the school day. In reception sat a large wicker basket. In the basket were dozens of mobile phones. Child after child was reaching in and picking out their phone. All chatter ceased at that point, because the phones were being switched on, messages sent and checked, calls made and voice messages listened to.

Thirdly, an outstanding school with a delightful library space but books that could really do with updating and replacing. The headteacher telling me that parents are less willing to support the library as they don’t see the point in a collection of books when the internet can tell their child all that they need to know. ‘Why learn the date of Magna Carta when Google will tell you in seconds?’

How quickly things change!

Less than ten years ago the media was covering stories about the hazards of mobile phones to human health. In particular, the hazards of phone emissions on the developing brains of young people. I recall friends with young children declaring adamantly that their son or daughter would not be having their first mobile phone until their thirteen birthday at least.

This is not a rant against the prevalence of technology in our lives. It brings many benefits and is reforming the ways in which young people perceive our world. But what I question is the unthinking nature of the changes. The current youth generation has been an ‘always on’ guinea pig’ cohort. They know nothing else and we don’t seem to have considered as a society what is and is not appropriate. The first impact of those changes will be felt in schools. Should teachers not be at the forefront of the research that must take place if we are to adequately understand the impact?

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