10 Reasons for Parental Guidance in the Use of Handhelds

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

Twitter Keepers for Week Ending 2010-11-07


  • @chamada I’m not against paying for a good product except when my wish list/need list is greater than my budget. #
  • “technique” involves the practical skills of knowing and doing (Journal of Technology, Vol 7, No. 1, Fall 1995, p. 32) #
  • “Technology encompasses reasoned application”. “reasoned application” – I get that term. #
  • Should technology study be a strand separate from (thought connected to) application? #
  • That we learn from experience, and from books or the sayings of others only as they are related to experience, are not mere phrases – Dewey #
  • the place where children are sent for discipline [school] is the one place in the world where it is most difficult to get experience…Dewey #
  • @shareski @bengrey Didn’t see the whole convo but doesn’t learning happen during training? Does training have a bad rap? in reply to shareski #
  • @dkuropatwa I like how you’ve created the framework (saves me steps) with emphasis on action+element of sharing thru wiki for plugging in. in reply to dkuropatwa #
  • @bengrey We were talking about training in my instructional design course and how people prefer the word development …new consideration to me in reply to bengrey #
  • @monk51295 I love the video that you shared on innovation lab. Intrsted getting stdnts to articulate their dreams and commit to action #
  • @monk51295 Would love to hear more about your project, process to get this point, how it works in terms of planning and implementation #
  • It’s amazing that I never encountered the word aphorism before today #newwords #
  • @amichetti As I manage google doc, several safari windows and preview to do outline for research paper, Scrivener looks real good. #
  • “we have already seen and lived the future in the recursion of policies and initiatives which are promulgated as if past had never existed” #
  • The circular nature of time … Tomorrow never comes – it doesn’t have to, it’s already here (Lloyd, 2005) #


  • Would you use 11″ macbook air instead of macbook with students? #
  • Is it possible to embed youtube in edublogs? Code is getting stripped. #
  • any experts on technology education programs? researching history and models. #
  • do you know what a sloyd is or what education sloyd refers to? #
  • Anyone using easiteach software with Epson Bightlinks? http://www.easiteach.com/eng/ #


Follow up

  • I’m sitting in the computer lab looking at all the cables all over the floor. I think it’s past time to do something about them … #
  • To do: use green screening. #
  • looking for grade 8, 9 or 10 class(es) to give feedback/peer assessment of my grade 9 personal branding products. I have 26 students. #

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From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able

TEDxKC – Michael Wesch – From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able

(Thanks @mscofino for sharing the link to the video on Twitter)

Most salient points (my thoughts in purple)

  • A good question leads people on a quest. What are the questions being asked in your classroom?
  • We need to move our students from meaning-seekers to meaning-creators?
  • We should be preparing students for the test of their lives.
  • What’s in the air is nearly the entire body of human knowledge … It is a new media landscape.
  • Media mediates relationships. Makes me think of the words of Marshall McLuhan, “The medium is the message.”
  • The technology of creating, collaborating, etc. is easy but really hard because students/people need to practice it. The doing is not innate. We need to model and give students opportunities to exercise the skills/abilities.

Thinking about The Tyranny of Relevance

I advocate two strands in technology curricula: a technology integration strand where technology is embedded into core classes and a computer science strand where students study actual computer science concepts, respecting computer science as a separate field of study with its own habits of mind. The former would include things like word processing, blogging and podcasting while the latter would include programming, history and trends in technology/computer inventions, data representation, parts of a computer, computer aided design. I’m lucky in that I work at international schools so we get a chance to mold our own curriculum for ICT. When I went through the process at my last school, we discussed technology integration versus separate computer classes and decided to focus on integration in elementary and continue it in middle and high school while providing students compulsory computer classes in middle school, and elective computer courses in high school to focus on topics in the field of computer science. This was our introduction

The Integrated Curriculum – A Two Strand Approach

This curriculum uses a two-strand model, recognising that authentic technology education takes place in the context of authentic use; and recognising also that computer science is an independent discipline, whose foundational principles embody habits of mind relevant to all aspects of a student’s learning.

Thus students learn applications and explore the creative possibilities of technology in the context of their core subjects. Application of technology is therefore integrated into all subject area curricula, at all levels.

Students will be introduced to computer science concepts, particular those concepts that are relevant to other fields of study and to life. Students develop algorithmic and critical thinking processes explicitly, and learn to identify patterns in system processing, as concepts of computer science. These will be addressed within other curricular areas such as social studies, math or science, but must also be considered explicitly as topics in computer science. Therefore, this curriculum articulates skills and understandings in computer science as a separate strand.

The ICT curriculum at the middle school level has a required computer science component at each grade level and learn its value and importance in society. At the high school level, computer science courses are offered on an elective basis.

Relevance in and of itself is not a bad thing. Students may have better chance of constructing understanding of spreadsheets if we create one to plan a class party instead of using random worksheets. Relevance becomes a tyrant when the emphasis on it overshadows all else resulting in a lack of balance and the disservice of never exposing our students to the field of computer science.

Some topics that could be covered in a computer science class has connections to other subjects e.g. graph theory to Math(s) and extracting information from data is important in many subjects, computer aided design to art etc. We should highlight those connections where possible so that students learn about computer science, as well as it’s relationship to other fields.

Desiring relevance for educational technology is not the problem, doing so to the exclusion of computer science is.

Written in response to http://www.ictineducation.org/home-page/2010/3/10/the-tyranny-of-relevance.html by Terry Freedman.