Does Technology Inhibit Our Engagement With Children?

toddler apps


Photo by jenny downing

I had an interesting online discussion with a colleague as to whether or not technology detracts from or enhances communication. She wrote, “…communication is a relational activity, it’s all about relationships. Should we be investing so much energy on encouraging children to engage maybe more with technology than they do with people? … Do we really need all of the apps in order to engage children with spoken communication or do we need to get back to the real function of speech and language which is to connect people with people?”

As a speech path, I fully agree, to a point. But does technology disengage children from human interaction? Does our enthusiasm for the iPad, and using it in therapy, have the potential for reducing the child’s interpersonal relationship with us and others? I believe the answer is that it depends on how we use technology.

Technology is a tool like any other, but with expanded possibilities. There are apps available that can be used as a starting point for conversation. New app innovation holds the possibility of animating the standard pictures we have been using in therapy for years. I find it hard to understand why that is a negative. As with all materials available to us, it all depends on how we put them to use. Letters replaced human messengers, books replaced human storytellers, radio and television took their place alongside live entertainment. Today’s technology is another medium of interaction on this continuum.

Another colleague offered this anecdote. “At the end of school last year, I grouped two preschoolers who I had been seeing separately and at the end, we used the iPad for some free time. Boy, was I surprised at the amount of spontaneous conversation between the two boys! They shared their favorite app, described how to play it, asked questions about the other boy’s app, and made helpful suggestions. I hadn’t gotten such spontaneous language from the one student for over a year of therapy!!”

(This post originally appeared on Apps for Speech Therapy)

 

Mirla Raz, CCC-SLP, is a speech pathologist in private practice (Communication Skills Center) and the author of the Help Me Talk Book: How to Teach a Child to Say the “R” Sound in 15 Easy Lessons, How to Teach a Child to Say the “S” Sound in 15 Easy Lessons, and How to Teach a Child to Say the “L” Sound in 15 Easy Lessons (also available in Kindle). Her latest endeavor is her blog Apps for Speech Therapy.