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In today’s increasingly digital world, children are exposed to technology from a very young age. According to one study, as many as 97% of kids had used mobile devices by the time they were 4 years old.

Most of them began as babies! While some parents and educators may be hesitant about introducing technology to young children, the fact of the matter is that technology is here to stay, and learning how to use it is a valuable skill. Worried about creating a little screen zombie? Don’t be! Thoughtful, intentional tech use can have amazing benefits. Read on to see how you can encourage your little ones to engage with technology creatively rather than being passive consumers.

One of the most significant benefits of technology for children is its ability to enhance creativity and encour­age the development of important skills. Whether at home or in the classroom, technology can be used to help children learn problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration skills, as well as providing opportu­nities for creative expression and exploration. Apps like puzzle games, art programs, and read-along story books can be great tools to add to your parenting kit.

For slightly older children, programming and coding toys or software can be a great way to build relevant skills while flexing their creative and problem-solving muscles. From robots to board games to web-based platforms, these types of toys allow children to experiment with coding and robotics in a hands-on way, giving them the opportunity to explore their own ideas and concepts. Kids’ brains learn new languages much more quickly than adults’ do, and that applies to programming as well. They may surprise you, and surpass you, with their skills!

It’s no secret that the future will continue to involve technology in huge, and unexpected, ways. By expos­ing children to technology at a young age, they can develop the skills and knowledge necessary to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. Help show your little ones how their curiosity can continue to grow. Talk about interesting figures in STEM fields together! Do web searches for biog­raphies of pioneers in the field, find books at your local library, or look for videos of interviews. Seeing how people take their interests and turn them into careers might inspire big dreams for your tech-y tot.

Of course, technology should never replace tradi­tional forms of play and exploration. While tech can be a valuable tool for supporting children’s develop­ment, it is important to ensure that children have a balance of both screen time and time spent engag­ing in other activities, such as outdoor play, reading, and creative arts. Balance is key.

Always be sure to monitor use and keep tech ad­ventures safe and secure. Parents and educators should monitor children’s use of technology and ensure that they are accessing age-appropriate content, keeping their personal information private, and giving their eyes, bodies, and brains plenty of screen breaks.

Raising vibrant, creative, and curious kids is every parent’s goal. With mindful technology use, we can open countless doors to new experiences and opportunities for our children, in the present and the future.