Digital technology has taken up a significant amount of space in the modern classroom. Chalkboards have been replaced by Smart Boards, which were then replaced by Promethean Boards. Students go to school with little computers in their pockets, moderate-sized computers in their backpacks, and bigger computers stationed in labs throughout the school.
They learn on their computers. They learn about their computers. And in many ways, that is how it should be. After all, the majority of high-paying jobs center very directly on digital technology. Even the ones that don’t will rely on it in some capacity.
Still, parents who take an active role in their child’s education may worry that there are downsides to digital technology in the classroom.
In this article, we explore every aspect of the issue. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of educating children about technology early on.
Pros: It Prepares Them for Life Beyond the Classroom
For better or for worse, kids will be expected to have a solid understanding of digital technology by the time they reach adulthood. Even students who aren’t on the college track will most likely be applying for jobs that rely on digital tools to improve efficiency.
And kids who want to explore tech-related careers will be going in considerably behind if they haven’t been exposed to digital tech consistently during their K-12 learning career.
Even people who really don’t like digital technology have to admit that it is everywhere. For example, you are reading this article on digital technology right now.
It’s just a question of keeping options open to kids. They may not want to weave digital technology into their adult life, but it will be very hard to do at all if they don’t have an early start.
Cons: The Internet is a Nasty Place
Well, it is. We could go on, and on, and on, (and on) about just how nasty it is but you probably have a pretty good idea already. Kids who learn digital tech are wading into a space filled with very adult problems—often these are problems that they aren’t equipped to handle.
Parents can help keep their kids away from explicit content by way of filters and remote monitoring technology. But what about the dangers of social media and cyberbullying?
Experts largely agree that both are significant risks to ANY student spending time online. But isn’t social media dangerous BECAUSE of cyberbullying?
Not exact—well. Yes. Cyberbullying is a significant risk on social media. Twenty years ago, a kid being picked on at school could go home and largely escape the situation. That’s no longer the case. But it goes deeper than that.
Social media can hurt kids even when no one does anything explicitly wrong. A child may see photographs that their friends post, and feel left out. Or, they might develop the assumption that their peer’s lives are significantly better than theirs. Adults, by the way, do the same thing— making inappropriate comparisons based on highly curated peer content they find online.
Even when insecurities don’t develop, the risk of addiction is always present. Children who spend too much time online begin to experience anxiety, depression, and insomnia. It’s a significant problem that can be very difficult for parents to solve.
One of the clearest benefits of digital technology in the classroom is that it helps students get ready for high-paying jobs. As computers continue to take jobs, it becomes more important than ever to know how to design and maintain software— or at least work with it to complete tasks that used to be entirely manual.
Sending a child into the world without any understanding of digital technology at all most likely won’t set them up for a lucrative career. At the very least, it will deprive them of many options.
Cons: It’s Expensive
Very expensive, for parents and schools. Public school systems spend between $150-500 per student on digital technology annually. With normal high schools having almost 1,000 students, it’s very easy to see how this has become an enormous cost.
That’s not even counting the cost of maintaining all that tech or providing digital infrastructure for it.
Some of that cost is inevitably shared by parents. Even if the school provides the hardware you will still need WIFI, and supplementary hardware is usually required if you intend to ensure access during summer months.
The cost barrier makes digital technology careers less accessible to low-income families. It also just makes routine participation in school harder. Some schools do find workarounds for this.
For example, it isn’t uncommon for public schools to offer WIFI hotspots to families who can prove they don’t have access to digital technology at home.
However, this does just pass the cost onto the school— which isn’t exactly rolling in cash to begin with.
Making it All Work
We organized all of this information in a nice pros and cons list, as though an actual decision was going to be made. Unfortunately, for many parents, that’s not quite the situation. The decision has already been made. Your school system is almost certainly applying digital technology in its curriculum.
Unless you want to homeschool your kids, you can’t completely shield them from digital technology. From a strictly career-prep perspective, you probably shouldn’t try.
So, no. The purpose of this article is not to help you decide if digital technology is right for your student. It’s more like a guide, helping you understand the risks your child is already facing, and (hopefully) equipping you with the understanding required to face them.
It all boils down to this: take digital technology seriously, both as a tool and a threat. Set up safety settings— you might feel like a dork doing it, but they help! Make rules about social media use, even if that means becoming the “weird,” parent who doesn’t let your kid have an account at all.
Most importantly, have regular conversations with their children about their experiences both on and offline.