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How Touchscreens Are Changing the World for Kids

05/09/2013 03:13 pm ET | Updated Jul 09, 2013
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By Dr. Claire McCarthy, pediatrician, blogger, and AAP spokesperson

This article is part of Common Sense Media's Mother's Day series, which celebrates awesome moms by highlighting the media and tech that helps them be the best parents they can be.

Touchscreens, I think, have changed how children think about and interact with the world forever.

My youngest child, Liam, is a touchscreen generation child. He's 7, and functionally, it's all he's ever known. For him, everything is three-dimensional. Nothing just exists on a page -- there's always a way to go deeper, to learn and see and do more. When he sees something on a screen, he's always looking for another way to look at it, and for something to do with it -- which he controls intuitively, moving his fingers across the screen. It's absolutely fascinating to me -- and I think it makes him more creative, more inventive and more empowered.

And for Liam, growing up surrounded by touchscreens and smartphones, the world is full of questions -- and answers. He's curious by nature. With the Internet literally at our fingertips, he doesn't understand why anyone would let a question linger. "Look it up!" he'll say, and we do. We read and learn together -- which usually leads to more questions and things to look up.

It's not like all his learning is on screens; many times, the answers to his questions lead us to books or museums or get us cooking or building or exploring the backyard or the beach. That's just it: The screens make the world bigger and yet fully within reach, and infinitely full of possibilities.

He's different from my older children, especially my 22-year-old and 20-year-old, who were born when computers were big and clunky and programs were anything but intuitive, in the days of dial-up, before Google existed. They manage the technology seamlessly now, of course, but it wasn't part of how they began to experience the world and learning like it is for Liam.

I don't know what this will mean for him as an adult or what it will mean for his generation. But as I watch him on the iPad, playing and learning and exploring, I can't help but feel excited -- and hopeful.


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