The good news is there’s a lot of research out there on the subject. The bad news, there’s evidence to support every angle, but not enough to give us parents any real guidance.
A quick summary of what the experts say:
While some researchers contend technology has obstructed the ability of children to employ authentic and impromptu imaginative play (Levin and Rosenquest 2001, Marsh 2002), others maintain “today’s technology can open new opportunities for children to playfully explore, experiment, design, and invent (Resnick, 2006).” Note: the quality of the content of learning apps and smart toys, etc. is also a factor, naturally.
So, what should parents do?
Process the above info, but remember our kids are individuals, and as their parents, we know better than the experts what’s best for them. If your children’s imagination appears stimulated and expanded when utilizing certain tech, no need to worry. If you notice the opposite effect, encourage more pretend play, social interaction, board games, etc. And, when in doubt, balance won’t soon let you down.
Levin, D. E., and B. Rosenquest. (2001). The increased role of electronic toys in the lives of infants and toddlers: Should we be concerned? Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 2, 242-247.
Marsh, J. (2002). Electronic toys: Why should we be concerned? A response to Levin and Rosenquest (2001). Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 3 (1), 132-138.
Resnick, Mitchel. (2006). Computer as paintbrush: Technology, play, and the creative society. In D.G. Singer, R. M. Golinkoff, & K. Hirsh-Pasek (Eds.). Play = learning: How play motivates and enhances children’s cognitive and social-emotional growth. Oxford University Press.