an interesting thought on technology today and children’s understanding of time

While revising I came across a study by Povinelli in the 1990’s. He designed a study for children so that we could explore their understanding of time. The children were in a room with two experimenters one next to them (1) and the other behind (2). In task 1 the child played one game that involved making paper airplanes while Experimenter 2 hid a toy in a blue box behind the child. Next the child flew the plane, task 2, and behind this experimenter 2 hid the toy in the red box, this was all videoed and the child watched it back after taking part in task 1 then task 2. The question asked was where would the child get the toy from when was asked to retrieve the toy after watching the video. It was found that most 5-6 year olds knew to go to the location that they saw when FLYING the planes (the red box which was correct). However 3-4 year olds went to the place they saw the toy being put in last – regardless if this was after MAKING OR FLYING the planes so either the blue or red box. This suggested that 3-4 year olds can’t systematically link what happened in the past to how things are now.

Having said this… there are demands in this task that 3-4 year olds may not be able to overcome:

  • Their language abilities are much less developed than the 5-6 year olds and therefore they may not completely understand the question.
  • Also videos were used in the experiment and therefore the logic of video must be understood before they can demonstrate there knowledge of time through this video. However, as they are in the 1990’s it would be unlikely that they would have an extensive knowledge about how videos work.

This got me thinking.. children today have much more exposure to videos and watching themselves back so how does this effect their knowledge of time? Perhaps, children nowadays are much more advanced in their knowledge of time due to their exposure of videos and the internet as it shows them from a very early age about what is present and future through watching videos back instantly of something they have just done. Therefore is this a pro of Technology as children are actually becoming more self aware than in the past through it heightened use?

Povinelli et al. (1999) Development of young children’s understanding that the recent past is causally bound to the present. Developmental Psychology, 35 (6).

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