If I had any doubts that kids take naturally to technology, it got dispelled yesterday. In less than 60 seconds (35 seconds by my wife’s estimate), my not-yet-4-year-old successfully unlocked and operated my new Nokia N97 phone. He is now the demonstrator-in-chief for the Nokia N97 for all those who visit the house (Nokia should appoint him their sales agent – really).
That’s nothing short of an achievement, if you consider the fact that I had to read the manual to figure out how to use the gadget, while my wife pushed and pulled for a lot longer time than my son.
Here is my assessment on why kids take naturally to technology:
1. Today’s children are born into technology. Technology is all around them and they grow up interacting with technical devices – TV, DVD players, computers, phones, music systems to name a few devices that are commonly found around the house. My son has played with and used all devices that he can lay his hands on. Every night, before he sleeps, he has to punch the keys on the computer and write a make-believe document. He prefers this activity to writing on paper. In fact, that’s where he reinforces visual recognition of letters and knows the exact position/function of all the keys. He can move the mouse with precision and format text with different colours, fonts and font sizes.
It seems to me, that he will be more comfortable typing than with writing.
2. Children are naturally inquisitive. They are not burdened with prior knowledge. As adults we become accustomed to doing thing in a particular manner. Our first reaction to something new is to test our prior knowledge and if something does not conform to our existing schema, we are at a loss.
This is not the case with kids. They will push and pull, touch and jab till they figure it out. If a particular method does not work, they try something new. They have all the perseverance and determination in the world.
3. Children do not carry the baggage of fear. Fear is one of the biggest reasons why us adults produce sub-optimal results – fear of failure, fear of damaging, fear of doing something that will result in additional costs, etc. Will it break if I press this button? Will I connect to the internet, which will result in additional costs? Will I dial the number of some unknown person? etc.
Kids when they set out to do a task, they display all the creativity in the world because they are not thinking about the consequences. The only thing that limits a child in his interaction with technology is his environment and interest.
But are these characteristics of children restricted to technology alone? No they are not. Children’s interactions with people & materials are based on their natural instincts that are hardwired into them. As we grow older, some of these natural instincts get suppressed, due to control and compliance.
As caregivers and teachers, we should nurture and enhance these natural instincts, within reasonable parameters of safety. It is a grave injustice to them to burden them with the baggage we adults have grown accustomed to carry.