Do you love or loathe autocorrect? You might get a giggle out of an incorrect (and accidentally inappropriate) SMS from a friend, but there’s also suggestion that the autocorrect function, and technology in general, could be holding back our kids.

We curse it, we thank it, but we know we’ll never ditch it. We’ve watched as our kids string full sentences together at the touch of a few buttons, and have been grateful for its intuition as we frantically tap out messages at the speed of light. But as handy as autocorrect can be, there’s a growing consensus that it’s having an impact on our literacy skills and the reading and writing habits of our kids.

A study by Professor Dennis Galletta in 2005 found that over-confident writers made more errors whilst editing a document with spell checker on than when the function was not used. But he concludes it’s more an issue of laziness than unintelligence.

“I think the only thing that we can really say is that they just ignored the errors,” Professor Galletta says. “If they had looked at them, they would have corrected them. We believe it’s the laziness or the overconfidence in the software.”

But a 2008 study suggests that kids these days aren’t as smart as they used to be. Comparing IQs from 1980 and 2008, Professor James Flynn found that the average millennial 14-year-old had an IQ two points lower than the average 14-year-old in 1980. He attributes this decrease to technology, saying “youth culture is now more visually orientated around computer games than they are in terms of reading and holding conversations”.

Naturally, the digital revolution – with all its shortcuts and superpowers – has had an impact on our daily habits. But is there a difference between skilled adaptation and straight-up laziness? We think there’s no harm in honing new skills while maintaining old ones. Turning off autocorrect is not such a silly idea. It encourages you to use your brain again and helps kids build those all-important literacy skills while they play with their favourite apps.

And don’t forget the power of reading and writing in play. Taking time out of your day to read to your children and have them read to you can make all the difference. Investing in some rainbow felt pens will also sharpen your kids’ fine motor skills needed to write and draw. Make it a game by writing and illustrating stories or doing a word scavenger hunt around the house. And don’t underestimate the power of family spelling bees in the car.

Technology may be making us lazy, but there’s no need to shy away from it. Combat intellectual laziness with some of the great apps that are available. Your child is more likely to learn how to spell ‘apple’ with Curious George than in a homework book, and sounds and colours can help conquer kids’ generally shorter attention spans.

Words: Anastasia White



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