Children and Technology: Navigating Healthy Development

By Doug Fodeman on November 14, 2019

At Brookwood, technology serves as a tool to facilitate teaching and promote learning. It is also used to empower and motivate students to reach academic goals. We use many different types of technology to teach children how to think critically, develop empathy, work collaboratively, design, engineer, and solve problems, in addition to building the skills they will need for their participation in high school, college and life.

While today’s technologies are remarkable educational tools when used appropriately under adult supervision, most parents recognize that children’s unsupervised use of some technology carries risks. Also, not all forms of technology are appropriate for all ages of children. Parents are faced with the challenge of figuring out what are age-appropriate technologies for their children and how to supervise their children’s technology use at home and with friends. The United States government offers no guidance and leaves technology developers and marketers, who are driven by economics, to decide what is best for children. Or, more commonly, children are left to decide for themselves what is appropriate for them to use as they explore and experiment, and their choices are often influenced by popular culture and peer pressure.

There is a growing body of research revealing that children are spending too much time using technology and in ways that have a negative impact on their development, health, emotional well-being, communication skills and learning. Doug Fodeman


Through a series of blog posts, I plan to bring more attention to these issues, what the latest research shows and offer parents suggested guidelines. Articles can be found online that are well written and bring attention to the concerns and issues that reflect children’s use of technology. For example, parents should read this article from the Boston Globe to begin to understand these concerns. Or this ABC News report about the impact of smartphones on the anxiety and stress level of teens, as reported in this recent study from Dr. Nancy Cheever of California State University.

If you wonder at all whether or not your child may be negatively impacted by technology, listen to this 4 minute CBS news broadcast from data collected in 2016. (Keep in mind that there is not a lot of research on children and technology because they have not had much personal access to it until the last few years. Most research has been done on teenagers and young adults.)

The recommendations presented here are specifically designed to help parents make the right decisions for their families. They are based on research and curated from experts in the field, to equip parents with developmentally-appropriate guidelines. However, adherence to the recommendations is, of course, to be determined by each individual family.

It is important to note that the greatest risks concerning the socio-emotional wellbeing and development of children and teens come from their use of smartphones. However, social media, texting and video gameplay have also shown to have risks for children and teens. Notice that none of these tools or methods of communication are typically used in schools for teaching and learning. They are most specifically the tools or methods by which children and teens connect and communicate socially.

If parents choose to give their children a smartphone (or iPod/iPad with texting) or allow them to use social media like Instagram, Tik Tok, Snapchat or even Spotify, they should seriously consider using a contract with their children. Several years ago a Brookwood parent created a contract for her young teen. We offer it to our readers as a starting point for parents to consider the details of a contract that will work for their family: Smartphone Contract.

Next week, we’ll dive deeper into children’s smartphone use, and what you should look out for when introducing this technology into their lives. 

Other Publications by Doug Fodeman: