Should Toddlers Have Laptops?

My first ever computer was a 1982 ZX Spectrum complete with Battleships and Tetris which provided me and my brother with perpetual sleepless nights and fallouts. I was nine years old when this machine of beauty and wonderment entered our house (I’m now 31) – changing our definition of entertainment and education for many years to come.

You could easily argue, along with my parents and teachers, that this unwavering entertainment wasn’t providing (or supporting) a conventional education. It wasn’t until I reached secondary school that I realised computers also existed outside of gaming and did in fact ‘teach’ you things. Admittedly, I was blossoming as a young, carefree fighter pilot who ruthlessly killed the enemy on sight however this skill set wasn’t exactly enhancing my academic potential.

Today the relationship between technology, child and education is far more understanding and beneficial. Yes, computers still dominate for their games and glamour but they all also help you learn more quickly and more easily than ever before. The Internet obviously plays a major part with its abundant accessibility and coverage making it rather simple for a nine year old to learn the fundamentals of becoming a real life fighter pilot. However, the big questions on most parents lips is how young (or old) should your child be before receiving their first computer, or ultimately, should toddlers in fact have a laptop or PC at all?

Well, the easy answer would of course depend on the purpose of the laptop; the defence would argue that young children are more exposed to technology in the home or via TV and are susceptible to the allure of kiddie-equivalent phones, i-Books and laptops now available on the market.

In 2009, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) stated that the number of households with access to the Internet in the UK was around 70%, up by 20% in 2000, with around two thirds now owning a computer. It wouldn’t be surprising if in another 10 years the vast majority, if not all, of the homes in this country had internet access; placing huge pressure on parents and schools.

Anyway, back to the question in hand. A laptop can certainly offer unlimited purpose and learning opportunities to a toddler, but naturally you wouldn’t buy your progeny a shiny new MacBook Pro with full Internet access and Facebook account. The compromise is the level of laptop and time spent on it, versus their age and cognitive stage. There are a whole host of ‘kids’ laptops available that are both educational and inexpensive; however technically they are still academic toys.

With the prevalence and reliance on computers in schools and the work place today you could also argue that it’s almost crucial for young children to be familiar with technology at a young age. But that doesn’t mean it should be enforced. The key is natural integration.

As a parent you ultimately decide what’s best for your children, whether it’s food, school or friendships, you make an instinctive call when to introduce the fruits and labours of life. Modern technology, more notably mobile phones and laptops, is certainly a scrumptious fruit that requires very little labour to enjoy, but that’s why it’s so important for it to be served with the timing and respect it deserves – particularly where toddlers are concerned.

Earlier this year the government launched its Home Access Scheme, with £300 million being spent on laptops and broadband for thousands of ‘poor’ families. Children aged between 7 and 14 are eligible for a portal computer by applying for a grant. Although the scheme helps impoverished families and slightly older children, the goal remains the same: to kick start the younger generation within a rapidly evolving world.

There will always be drawbacks, criticism and debate surrounding technology and toddlers but remember that the learning process, inside and outside of school, can and should be fun, just as long as it’s regulated and viewed with an open mind.

For more information on the government’s Home Access Scheme, visit www.homeaccess.org.uk/

Matt has been writing about Virgin Mobile USA and Virgin Mobile UK now for sometime and through this has developed a passion for researching technology. This post was a challenge as it involved asking questions of friends with children who are elevated in the use of technology, and understanding the new generation.

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