As an adult it can feel almost impossible to keep up to date with the ever-changing world of technology. Things that once seemed impossible, or an expensive luxury - such as mobile phones and tablets - have become an everyday part of our lives. These advances that surprise us are often a commonplace fact of life for our children, who have been born into an age of technological enterprise.
Although they may have no problem in using this technology, as parents we are forced to ask whether they should be using it, and if so, in what way. The typical argument of this kind, no doubt taking place in households across the country at this very moment, is whether children should be granted their own laptops.
Practically speaking, a personal laptop has never been more available to our children. With falling prices and the potential to buy affordable laptops on finance, more and more parents can consider buying one for their kids’ educational and personal use. But despite the fall in price, laptops are still expensive items and easily damaged beyond repair. Should we really be putting them in the hands of our children?
Supporters of traditional teaching techniques are often quick to criticise the increasing prevalence of computers in the classroom. The ‘death of handwriting’ is often heralded, and there may be some substance to these concerns, with the increasing likelihood that a child with writing difficulties will be given a computer instead of special attention to address their needs. Handwriting has also been shown to engage our brains in unique and beneficial ways, which may be curtailed by the introduction of computers to the classroom.
Other educators and experts are critical of attempts to hold back the advances of new technology. "We would never send our own kids to paediatricians that were practicing medicine from the '70s or '80s," said Mark Hess, principal of Sarah Banks Middle School in Wixom, Michigan, US. "Why would we send our kids to schools that are practicing instructional techniques that are decades old? If we did that, it'd be educational malpractice."
Computers can be very useful tools for our kids, opening them up to a world of information and learning that would never have been available to older generations, but at the same time it is important to monitor their use, and not just for inaccurate or harmful information. If your child is spending hours on social media, you might question how beneficial it is to their education or real social life. Every parent should consider limiting their kids' access to their laptop to a reasonable extent, and should certainly investigate internet access settings.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to get your child a laptop should be made on a case-by-case basis. Consider whether your son or daughter can handle the responsibility of looking after an expensive computer and whether they will put it to good use. It would be short-sighted of any parent to deprive their child of the technology that will inevitably surround them for their whole life, and yet it would be naive of anyone to believe that advances in technology come without significant dangers.