Tuesday, May 28, 2013

News U Can Use: "Touchscreens and Our Changing World"

How Touchscreens Are Changing the World for Kids
- Dr. Claire McCarthy, pediatrician, blogger, and AAP spokesperson, marvels at the power of an iPad to change her son's world.
Touchscreens, I think, have changed how children think about and interact with the world forever.

My youngest child, Liam, is a touchscreen generation child. He's 7, and functionally it's all he's ever known. For him, everything is three-dimensional. Nothing just exists on a page -- there's always a way to go deeper, to learn and see and do more. When he sees something on a screen, he's always looking for another way to look at it, and for something to do with it -- which he controls intuitively, moving his fingers across the screen. It's absolutely fascinating to me -- and I think it makes him more creative, more inventive, and more empowered.

And for Liam, growing up surrounded by touchscreens and smartphones, the world is full of questions -- and answers. He's curious by nature. With the Internet literally at our fingertips, he doesn't understand why anyone would let a question linger. "Look it up!" he'll say, and we do. We read and learn together -- which usually leads to more questions and things to look up.

It's not like all his learning is on screens; many times the answers to his questions lead us to books or museums or get us cooking or building or exploring the backyard or the beach. That's just it: The screens make the world bigger and yet fully within reach, and infinitely full of possibilities.

He's different from my older children, especially my 22-year-old and 20-year-old, who were born when computers were big and clunky and programs were anything but intuitive, in the days of dial-up, before Google existed. They manage the technology seamlessly now, of course, but it wasn't part of how they began to experience the world and learning like it is for Liam.

I don't know what this will mean for him as an adult or what it will mean for his generation. But as I watch him on the iPad, playing and learning and exploring, I can't help but feel excited -- and hopeful.

Claire McCarthy, MD, is a pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital, a blogger for Boston.com and Huffington Post, and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Common Sense Media