Parents often worry about how much time their children spend online, either browsing the Internet or playing online games. The concern is that they should be playing outside, playing sports, reading, giving more attention to their homework or socialising with other children. In the rapidly changing pace of new technology parents also have a hard time negotiating the influx of new tech that is available for children and feel that their kids should have the same experiences that they had when growing up, when the available technology was far more limited.
I wanted to delve a little more into this and so I took a look at a few studies that have recently been done on how allowing your children to spend time online can actually be beneficial to their learning process. According to the research, spending more time online can in fact increase not only your child’s technical skills but other skills as well. A recent study, published in American Psychologist in January 2014, focused on the potential benefits of online gaming and found that “the nature of these games has changed dramatically in the last decade, becoming increasingly complex, diverse, realistic, and social in nature.” They found that there are cognitive, motivational, emotional and social benefits to be found in the experience of online gaming. This includes the finding that far from being antisocial “over 70% of gamers play their games with a friend, either cooperatively or competitively.”
Other studies that I found interestingly enough, showed that if Internet time is supervised correctly, it can greatly benefit children’s learning. There is an abundance of online resources, learning tools and games for children out there, all of which can actually help them increase their knowledge, learning and skills. Professor Sugata Mitra of Newcastle University in the UK believes; “Children who access the Internet from such safe, self-organised learning environments gain immensely over ones who don’t. They learn to read sooner and better, they gain in self-confidence and they retain what they have researched for much longer than that gained through traditional rote learning.” You can read more about Professor Mitra’s findings here.
Delving deeper into my research I found that, according to the blog Zen Habits, there are nine essential skills that all children should learn. These include asking questions, solving problems, tackling projects, finding passion, independence, being happy on their own, compassion, tolerance and dealing with change. The theory being that these skills will help children be better able to adapt and to face challenges later on in life regardless of what other ‘academic’ skills they acquire. New studies seem to agree that it is some of these essential skills that are being found to be learnt online. Not to mention the important fact that one of the main benefits of children spending time online is that it enhances computer and Internet proficiency. Technical proficiency and online skills like accessing information, communication, and collaboration are necessary for learning and succeeding, not just in school but in life.
So while we do need to recognise that all forms of play and different experiences are valuable to children, I would like to suggest that spending time online can also be beneficial as part of their learning and development process.
I would love to know whether you think it is valuable for your children to spend time online? Share your comments with us on Twitter @RSAWEB #ChildrenOnline
If you would like to read a little more on this subject here are a few of the resources and links that I found:
The Internet can harm, but can also be a child’s best tool for learning – Debunking the myths: computers don’t make children antisocial
Here is an article we published on how fibre internet can change your lifestyle