I did not have my own computer until I was a junior in college (the first time through). We did not have the Internet at home until roughly the same time, the year 2003. I didn't even have a "real" cell phone until I was 21. At the time these things were not viewed as so very out of the ordinary, but life has changed.
I read an interview with Scott Steinberg, author of The Parent's Modern Guide. He noted that children from the ages two to five are more skilled at using apps and playing video games than they are at tying their own shoes or riding a bike. Did anyone else spend most of their time at that age playing outside or looking at books? That is what I remember. These changes are not necessarily "bad" as long as moderation is kept. Children
who have grown up with technology are called digital natives. Most of the students I teach fall into that category. Many students come to first grade equipped with some basic computer knowledge, even if they are still working on their coordination on the keyboard or with the mouse.
It was a special treat when I was finally able to use a DOS typing program on my father's farming computer, an IBM with a blue-gray and black display. This had important records on it, I was warned, so I knew that it was a big deal. This computer did not have any Internet access, nor does his farming computer currently, so having it in a less trafficked room was not a major concern. My parents would allow me to play the typing game for about half an hour at most in the evening. The rest of my evenings were for family time, reading, and homework.
It is odd to think that these evening tasks have not changed all that much for me in type, but that they have changed in how I go about them. I do my lesson planning online with Plan Board App. I check for overdue books and work on purchase orders online. From time to time I do work on creating things with my hands for school, but there is often at least one typed component involved. I communicate with my family on my smartphone through text messages, phone calls, and face time--not to mention Facebook and email! My reading is usually done on my Kindle, though sometimes on my phone or tablet. How things have changed!
Back to that idea of moderation. Clearly it is up to parents and guardians to set their own rules for technology use in their own homes. It is recommended that younger children (prior to middle school) should not have more than 30-60 minutes of screen time (computer, smartphone, TV...) per day. Others recommend limiting screen time to one to two hours per day. It can be difficult to limit this time, particularly with older children who need to work on assignments at the computer. The Mayo Clinic has some insight on how to deal with those situations as well as information on the risks associated with too much screen time. One of the risks I can personally attest to is that of irregular sleep. My husband and I have both been awakened by a tablet or smartphone to the face, having fallen asleep while reading another chapter or playing "just one more" game! Further, it is more difficult for me to fall asleep when I have been at the computer all evening or playing too much of a favorite video game. If it happens to me, I feel confident that it happens to many others.
Remember that technology is just like anything else people enjoy--it is best enjoyed in moderation!
(Images from morguefile.com)