Cris Rowan has recently written a Huffington Post article that outlines 10 reasons why handheld devices should be banned for children under the age of 12. I acknowledge that she makes some important points but I do not agree with her conclusion:
Point 1: Children under two are experiencing rapid brain growth which could be impeded by use of technology devices
I take no issue with this idea.
Point 2: Technology use can delay a child’s development and learning
The research referenced in Ms. Rowan’s 2010 paper show a lack of parental guidance in technology use and overuse of technology in non-educational ways. The research also showed the importance of touch, connection and movement in development. The conclusion presented by Ms. Rowan is a ban of handheld technology, but an approach of meaningful technology within a balanced family and education environment (outdoor recess, storytelling, playing sports, etc.) is not addressed.
Point 3: Epidemic Obesity
I think that it’s important for schools and parents to provide children with engaging environments and adequate guidance so that they are not spending all their time online. Certainly, technology provides an alternative to engaging in physical activity. As a child, reading books was a challenge to my physical activity and I can remember my grandmother telling me that I had to put the book down and go outside to play. My point is that it’s the job of parents and other caring adults to model engagement in physical activity, and to provide frameworks for children so that they are physically active. One family rule may be that children are not allowed to use digital devices during an afternoon play date; a school rule could be that children cannot use digital devices for entertainment during recess.
Point 5: Sleep Deprivation
The issues raised in the article are that of inadequate parental supervision of children’s technology use and children having technology access in their bedrooms. Using an approach of finding a best fit of solution to problem, parents could create technology use contacts with children and have children turn in/turn off technology at a certain time each evening. This approach is more difficult than prohibiting access to technology.
Point 6: Aggression
This point raises the question, for me, of how we can protect children (under 12) from violent media content. In an elementary school setting, we wouldn’t select violent media content for use in class. Technology contracts with children should include details about quantities and types of media consumption/creation.
Point 7: Digital dementia
Have a balanced approach to life. Alzheimers.net list five things that people can do to fight digital dementia. We do all of them within our elementary program. There are many good reasons besides digital dementia for parents and children to do them also.
Point 8: Addictions to technology
Given that the problem here is that parents are addicted to technology and consequently detach from their children, it seems the solution should be to ban technology use for adults. If parents aren’t building strong attachments with their children, how do we fill that void? We need to address the problem (children need attachments with their parents) not the solution that children are finding for consolation.
Point 9: Exposure to radiation
Much of the research is on cell phone use. What do we know about radiation when using handheld devices? We don’t typically hold our handheld devices in close proximity to our heads like we do our cellphones.
Point 10: Unsustainability of our current approaches
I agree with the point but not the solution. The solution is to build a stronger culture of citizenship, not to simply disallow handheld use.
Finally, none of the 10 problems are confined to handhelds. This leaves me feeling that handhelds have become the scapegoat technology. It may be more difficult for parents to regulate and supervise handheld technology, but I’m a strong proponent of modeling citizenship to children and involving children in experiences where they get to make good citizenship decision with adult guidance. I think that it is more important to grapple with the difficult issues of allowing children under 12 to use handhelds within a framework where they are guided and supported than to ban all use of handhelds by them. This may mean having very strict guidelines about when a child can use a handheld device (e.g. during a long trip in the car but not at a family picnic; at home during set times but not during dinner). Parents also need to decide when they need to turn off WIFI on handheld devices, and whether or not it is a good idea for a child under 13 to have constant internet access provided by 3G.
Much of the research is on recreational technology use. Where does education fit into this discussion. Studies have shown that not all media consumption is equal (e.g. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-dobrow/screen-time-for-preschoolers_b_4184335.html). It seems a reasonable extension that different uses of technology affect children differently. This is an area requiring further research.
Link for Parents
Managing Media: We Need a Plan - http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/managing-media-we-need-a-plan.aspx