Screen Time and Technology

Are kids getting too much screen time? Parents aren’t sweating it

Kids on screens

This article illustrates a major problem in today’s society of child-rearing: Parents don’t see screen time as an issue with their children. According to this research article, content is a concern to parents, but QUANTITY? Not so much.

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-study-parents-use-20130604,0,7254966.story

Are kids getting too much screen time? Parents aren’t sweating it

By Deborah NetburnJune 4, 2013, 6:35 p.m.

Among the zillions of decisions that moms and dads make about how to parent,  it might seem that determining the appropriate amount of time young children can spend watching TV and playing on tablets and smart phones might be big one.

But it turns out that’s not the case. Most parents of children younger than 8 don’t give the matter much thought, researchers from Northwestern University found in a recent study.

Just 31% of the 2,300 parents surveyed expressed concern about their children’s media and technology use, while more than 55% of parents said they are not worrying about the amount of time their children spend staring at screens much at all.

And while 38% of parents said they were fearful their children could get addicted to hand held devices like tablets and smart phones, 55% said they aren’t sweating it.

(If you are anything like me, and have had the experience of trying to pry an iPhone out of the clutches of a screaming 2-year-old, you are now feeling very out of sync with your fellow American parents).

“It was completely surprising to me,” said Ellen Wartella, director of Northwestern University’s Center on Media and Human Development and the lead researcher on the study in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a generational shift. What we are seeing is a generation of parents who recognize that what kind of content you are exposing your kids to matters more than how much.”

The study, titled Parenting in the Age of Digital Media, held other surprises as well. For example, although 71% of parents had a smartphone in the home, nearly the same percentage said they did not think that having a smartphone or tablet device made parenting easier.

The study also revealed that most parents do not rely heavily on digital devices to distract their children. When Mom or Dad needs a moment to cook dinner or clean up the house, parents said, they are more likely to set their kid up with a toy or an activity (88%), a book (79%) or TV (78%) rather than handing over a smartphone or tablet (37%).

“Parents have a lot of tools they can use and media and technology are just one of those tools,” said Wartella.

Finally, the researchers found children’s media use is largely determined by the media environment that the parents have established in the home, rather than the result of a media obsessed kid clamoring for just one more show, or just one more app.

Of the families interviewed for the study, 38% fell into a category the researchers dubbed  “media-centric.” These are families where the parents enjoy watching TV and using the computer and smartphone at home, spending an average of 11 hours a day looking at various screens. The children of these parents, on average, spend four hours and 40 minutes a day looking at screens, the researchers found.

Some 45% of families fell into a “media-moderate” category where the parents spend a little less than 5 hours a day looking at screens. Their children, in turn, look at screens just under three hours a day.

And children in “media-light” families, where parents spend less than 2 hours a day looking at screen media, look at screen media themselves for an hour and 35 minutes on average.

“Instead of a battle with children on one side and parents on the other, media and technology has become a family affair,” the researchers conclude.

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Keeping Your Kids Safe in the Age of the Internet: Computer Monitoring

Gecko Image

–Guest Post By GeckoMonitor.com

As your kids grow from toddlers to pre-teens, then on into their teenage years, their interest in the digital world of computers and the internet will grow and grow. For parents, this creates another worry that we really don’t need! There are a ton of problems and dilemmas that computers can bring into our lives, starting with how we let our kids use the internet safely, without seeing content that they really shouldn’t be seeing.

Of course, digital problems go a lot further than that. We have kids who say they are doing homework in their rooms when they are really playing video games or teenagers who are growing curious and looking up things about gambling or alcohol. Younger children can be at risk too, from online predators who chat to strangers in chat rooms, to random strangers trying to befriend your children through social networking sites. However old your child, there almost always will be times when concern grows over the use of the internet.

But there are ways to make parents’ lives easier. As the use of computers and the internet has grown, as have the tools out there for helping us with our everyday digital lives. Two of these types of tools in particular can help when it comes to kids and computers. The first is parental control software, which can be used to block and filter out certain ‘unwanted’ websites when kids are using the computer. This type of application will scan a webpage before it is shown for any keywords related to promiscuity, alcohol, gambling, etc., and if any are found the page is blocked. Most applications of this type can be setup for your child’s age and just how strict you’d like to be with their browsing behavior.

The second type of application that can help is computer monitoring software. This type of software does exactly what it says on the tin; it monitors computer use. You can use Computer Monitoring Software to keep tabs on everything that happens on your child’s computer, and look over the reports and logs at a later date to see if anything out of place has happened.

Everything that goes on that machine is logged, including websites visited, applications used, everything typed, documents opened/saved and anything printed. Screenshots are also taken, so you can see exactly what they see on the screen. This means that any chat/IM conversation, Facebook activity or email sent or received will be logged by the software for you to check over at a later date. You can even have the logs sent to you via email, if you wanted to check up on them while you’re at work or away from home.

Computer Monitoring Software can work either visibly or stealthily, it’s up to you. And either way the software will be password protected, so only you can access it. If you want the software working in stealth mode, anyone using the computer will have no idea they are being monitored, with no sign of the software in the start menu, task manager or program files directory etc. In visible mode, computer monitoring software could simply be used as a deterrent to unwanted behavior when you’re away.

If you’d like to download a free trial of Computer Monitoring Software with all the features mentioned above, head to the Gecko Monitor website at http://www.geckomonitor.com

(Free software giveaway to come!)

Writing about Reading Apps: Goodnight Moon and Dr. David Walsh

http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/181275901.html?refer=y

READING AS RITUAL

An Article by: DAVID WALSH

Don’t let an app stop parents from reading books to their children.

“Goodnight kittens, and goodnight mittens”

“Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere.”

These are but a few of the melodic and soothing verses that stir warm childhood memories for millions around the world. “Goodnight Moon” isn’t a book. It’s a ritual.

My three children, all now parents themselves, swear they remember listening to me or my wife read this children’s classic before getting tucked in for the night. While these may not be literal memories, because their brains were too young, they are a testament to the emotional power the book has had for 65 years.

My four grandchildren all include “Goodnight Moon” as one of their “required” books at naptime. I’ve noticed that each snuggles a little closer as the red balloon hanging above the bed disappears from some pages only to reappear later.

Reading aloud is one of the most important — and enjoyable — parenting and grandparenting activities we can share with our children. Science tells us it’s the first building block for literacy. Babies love the soothing sounds of a familiar voice reading. Even when they prefer “eating” their books, they are beginning to make the mental connection we want. They’re associating reading with comfort, security and enjoyment. That link is a great foundation for raising readers. As a masterpiece like “Goodnight Moon” proves, it also creates emotional memories that last a lifetime.

That’s the reason I was appalled to read that there is now an app that downloads the story onto a smartphone or tablet computer (“Say goodnight to boredom of ‘Goodnight Moon,'” Nov. 27).

The purpose of the app is to rescue parents from the boredom of reading the book to their children. Boring? Let’s remember that the book is not written for parents. It’s for children, and there is a wealth of information to pique their interest. For example, there are more than 20 details that change from page to page. A 3-year-old can tell you that the socks disappear from the drying rack when the mittens are wished “goodnight,” but they reappear later.

What this app, should anyone actually pay $4.95 for it, really would do is to rob children of an invaluable experience. Children need to hear a human voice and sit in a human lap. It would be sad indeed if some bored parents let their children “snuggle up” with an iPad as they drift off to sleep.

* * *

David Walsh is a Minneapolis psychologist and author of the books “Smart Parenting, Smarter Kids,” “Why do They Act That Way?, and “No: Why Kids–Of All Ages–Need to Hear It and Why Parents Can Say It.”

http://drdavewalsh.com/

 

To the Parent Wanting an App to Teach Their Child to Talk

I was just looking through my blog statistics (it’s the researcher in me) and I saw that someone did an “engine search” (meaning they looked it up on Yahoo or Google) using the key words “best app for teaching a child to talk.”

Unbelievable.

As someone who has worked professionally with children and is trained in this area, I can confidently give you (the person who did the search) my professional opinion on your query (in case you decide to do the search again).

My opinion is the app called “You.”

You are the person your child will learn to speak from, not an app.

Here’s a primer on language development:

  • Talk to your child ALL THE TIME.
  • Narrate what you are doing as you are doing it: “Now I’m cracking the eggs. Look the eggs are yellow.”
  • Narrate what your child is doing as they do it: “Oh, you’re looking at the dolly. The dolly is pretty.”
  • Read to your child every day.
  • Spend as much one-on-one time with your child as you can: that means no t.v., no computers, no apps.
  • Pick one word and repeat it over and over and over again; pick a work that is meaningful to your child (milk, more, momma, dadda, help, no, eat, drink) and concentrate on working with your child on that word and that word alone.
  • If your child wants an object, prompt your child to say the name of the object before giving your child the object. “You want the milk? Can you say MIIILLLKK??” (If your child is unable to say the name of the object, give it to them before they become too frustrated and try again the next time.)
  • Praise your child for approximating the word. If they say “bu” for “ball” praise them a lot; lavish praise on them. “Yeah!!! Yes!!! You said “Bu!! BALL!!”

No speech therapist is going to use an app to teach your child to talk; they are going to work with your child and are going to label things for your child. They are going to point to objects and get your child excited about an object and say the name of the object slowly and carefully, over and over again. They are going to help your child develop speech by imitating other humans.

Computers are not the answers to our child’s speech, development or social problems. More likely than not, they contribute to these problems instead.

As I have said before, any time spent interacting with a cell phone or a computer or an i-pod is time your child could be interacting with a human. And human-to-human is much more powerful and meaningful than any human-to-machine interaction.

DOCUMENTARY Play Again: What are the consequences of a child removed from nature?

http://playagainfilm.com/film-synopsis/Image

This is an amazing documentary about children who are “wired in” for seriously long periods of time a day. Hundreds of texts every day, hours in front of the computer screen, gaming, on-line chats. For some of them, the computeer is their social life. Chidlren who have difficulty connecting to other children socially may also fall prey to this easy way of what feels like connecting to others.

Humans have an innate need to connect to other people. Their survival and well-being depends on it. For children who may be on the margins (obese, socially inept, shy), the world of computers leaves their deficits and the reality of social interactions behind.

If you get a chance to view this documentary I would highly recommend it. It can also be purchased for a reasonable price and you and parents in your social circle could view it together and have a discussion.

Synopsis(CineSinopsis)

From the website:

http://playagainfilm.com/film-synopsis/

“One generation from now most people in the U.S. will have spent more time in the virtual world than in nature. New media technologies have improved our lives in countless ways. Information now appears with a click. Overseas friends are part of our daily lives. And even grandma loves Wii.

But what are we missing when we are behind screens? And how will this impact our children, our society, and eventually, our planet? At a time when children play more behind screens than outside, PLAY AGAIN explores the changing balance between the virtual and natural worlds. Is our connection to nature disappearing down the digital rabbit hole?

This moving and humorous documentary follows six teenagers who, like the “average American child,” spend five to fifteen hours a day behind screens. PLAY AGAIN unplugs these teens and takes them on their first wilderness adventure – no electricity, no cell phone coverage, no virtual reality.

Through the voices of children and leading experts including journalist Richard Louv, sociologist Juliet Schor, environmental writer Bill McKibben, educators Diane Levin and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, neuroscientist Gary Small, parks advocate Charles Jordan, and geneticist David Suzuki, PLAY AGAIN investigates the consequences of a childhood removed from nature and encourages action for a sustainable future.

Where we are coming from

Seventy years ago, the first televisions became commercially available. The first desktop computers went on sale 30 years ago, and the first cell phones a mere 15 years ago. During their relatively short tenure these three technologies have changed the way we live. Some of these changes are good. Television can now rapidly disseminate vital information. Computers turned that flow of information into a two-way street. Cell phones enable unprecedented connectivity with our fellow human beings. And the merging of cell phones and the internet has even allowed protest movements around the world to organize and thrive.

But there’s also a down side. For many people, especially children, screens have become the de facto medium by which the greater world is experienced. A virtual world of digitally transmitted pictures, voices, and scenarios has become more real to this generation than the world of sun, water, air, and living organisms, including fellow humans.

The average American child now spends over eight hours in front of a screen each day. She emails, texts, and updates her status incessantly. He can name hundreds of corporate logos, but less than ten native plants. She aspires to have hundreds of online friends, most she may never meet in person.  He masters complicated situations presented in game after game, but often avoids simple person-to-person conversation. They are almost entirely out of contact with the world that, over millions of years of evolution, shaped human beings — the natural world.

The long-term consequences of this experiment on human development remain to be seen, but the stakes couldn’t be higher. By most accounts, this generation will face multiple crises — environmental, economic and social. Will this screen world — and its bevy of virtual experiences — have adequately prepared these “digital natives” to address the problems they’ll face, problems on whose resolution their own survival may depend?

As we stand at a turning point in our relationship with earth, we find ourselves immersed in the gray area between the natural and virtual worlds. From a global perspective of wonder and hope, PLAY AGAIN examines this unique point in history.”

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Hands Free Mama? What about Hands Free Toddler (or Child)?

(My Hands Free Baby doing a little dance!)

Yesterday evening after swimming lessons and dinner out I took my almost three year old to Target with me to pick up a few items. Of course, a few items turned into a few more items and we were there well over an hour. She wanted to ride in the cart, she wanted to ride on the cart, she wanted to stand on the back of the cart, and stand on the front of the car. She fell over, she almost fell out. A typical trip to Target. Oh, and she sat on the Cheerios box that I put in the cart as soon as we got in the store (it was on sale) and even ripped open the top asking “What is this?!” Luckily she didn’t make it INTO the Cherrios. Yikes!

After a few minutes of this toddler-sized chaos, I realized that there was a bag of items that we had purchased at the Dollar Store prior to coming to Target. I suggested that she take the items out of their packages while we zipped around the store. We had picked up some small beach balls and some toys for the swimming pool: most of them were all packed in paperboard and plastic. This kept her busy for a while but she was still into stuff, doing her typical toddler thing.

About half way through our trip, I noticed something interesting. There was another mother pushing the cart of a toddler just about the size of mine. But unlike my cart which was full of chatter and movement, her cart was silent. How could that be? A toddler sitting in the bottom of the cart and not making a sound? I looked over into the cart to investigate. There sat with a toddler completely silent, not moving, transfixed. What going on? Then I saw it: the smart phone. She was watching Elmo on her mother’s phone.

Now if you’ve read any of my other posts on children and screen time, you may know my opinion on this. Any time a child is spent engaged with an electronic device is time that the child is not spending engaged with another human being or a tangible object. The toddler is not learning how to entertain herself, the toddler is passively being entertained.

Now perhaps for that mother, that was just the break she needed. Who am I to judge? But the skeptical side of me says that’s not the case. The skeptical side of me says that the phone is whipped out whenever there’s an occasion to keep an antsy child from squirming, exploring, grabbing and generally making a mess out of things.

(This is also backed up by the fact that a different mother at the table of the restaurant we were eating at before the Dollar Store was on her phone the whole time and only spoke to her 5 and 8 year old kids when it was to tell them to sit down. Not a Hands Free Mom.) Her children ended up leaning over the booth for half of the dinner to talk and interact with me and my child.

The interesting thing about this trip is that it never crossed my mind to try to entertain in her in any other way than the way that I was, and I won’t be changing my ways anytime soon. For me dealing with a squirmy toddler is part of the job of raising a child. Sure, I was tired. I had worked a full day of work, I had taken her to swimming lessons, out to dinner and to the Dollar Store. I’m a single mom. I do these things myself. But a toddler is a toddler. She needs to explore, to learn about objects, to ask questions. On one trip to the grocery store I spent half the time reading the signs advertising the fruits and veggies.

The grocery store, or any store for that matter, is a 3D experience. She’s touching things, looking at objects, asking questions. She’s learning how to balance in the cart when she’s standing in it and it comes to sudden stop. Language, reading, fine motor, gross motor, it’s all there.

For me, the smart phone and Elmo is a last resort. It’s for times when there are few other choices.  This has always been while we on a long car trip. Giving my child the smart phone every time she is restless would be somewhat akin to giving her a cookie every time she cries. I do use the occasional cookie to pacify the upset child, but aren’t there other lessons to be learned? Shouldn’t she learn that there are times you don’t get what you want, or to teach her how to self-soothe or learn that her mamma is there when she needs a hug? Why use the phone when you can offer your child a learning experience and a chance to be in the real world? Sure, it takes more time and effort on the part of the parent. But isn’t that what we’re there for? Isn’t that what we wanted when we signed on the dotted line of motherhood?

For more on Hands Free mother check out the Hands Free mama blog.

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Can an iTunes App Teach your Child to Speak? Parenting Magazine Thinks So

I was breezing through the March 2012 issue of Parenting Magazine and an article by Amy Beal entitled “Talking Points: The Latest News from the American Academy of Pediatrics” caught my eye. The article is informative enough and gives some good advice on children who may start speaking at a later than average age. Embedded in the article is a brief sentence on advice to parents when there is a concern. The advice is “The best way to encourage speech: talk and read to your child yourself – a lot.” I’m doubtful most parents make it that far into the article.

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This brief sentence buried in the fine print is the best advice that can be given. Children learn to speak by hearing other adults speak and by modeling of speach. The only way children are going to learn to speak is by hearing other people speak. Speaking slowly, mimicking what the child is saying, reinforcing speech through positive reinforcement: these are all ways to help children produce speech. Here’s a good piece on ways to teach your baby language naturally on iVillage published in 2011. (Baby talk: 8 easy and fun ways to improve you baby’s language skills.) The tips include: talking to your baby, respond to your baby’s cries,  have “conversations with your baby,” talk naturally to your baby, extend her language and describe what you see her doing, sing songs, read books, etc. You’ll notice that technology didn’t make its way into the tips.

READING BOOKS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR CHILD’S LANGUAGE SKILLS.

Reading to your child is the greatest predictor of academic success later in life. The more children are read to as young children, the better they do in school later. Make time in your day to read to your child.

As proof of this point, I was just reading in a sociology textbook about children who were not exposed to language for the first several years of their lives. One was the case of a girl who was locked in the attic with her deaf mother for the first six years of her life. Sociologists use this case as an example of understanding that language is not something that will be acquired simply by being born – it must be learned from the environment and particularly from the child’s caregivers.

My Outrage? iPhone as Speech Therapist.

This brief article was an okay overview of speech delays. What outraged me about the page in the magazine was the little “speech bubble” in the upper right hand corner that has a baby pointing to it. The little bubble says “Speech Therapy! Parents are raving about the First Words app. ($2: itunes.com). It is bright, it will capture the reader’s eye and it may be the only thing a reader sees and takes away from this page.

I almost had a heart attack when I saw this bubble. Why on earth is Parenting Magazine promoting an iTunes app to teach your baby to speak, especially given the information that was just provided that tells readers that babies learn to speak from other humans?

Let’s take a look at the many problems in this brief little advertising gimmick:

What is a parent more likely to do? Read the whole article in small print or read the speech bubble that tells you an iTunes app will teach your child to speak?

  1. Is it just me or isn’t it slightly irresponsible for Parenting Magazine to promote a $2.00 iTunes app as “Speech Therapy.”
  2. Apps are super popular, right? If you were a parent of a child with a slight delay in speech, wouldn’t you pick up your iPhone and download the app? What parent wouldn’t? (Well, I wouldn’t but that’s just me and hopefully some other mothers and fathers out there.) The majority would though, I’d bet. I’ve seen a lot of parents  grasp at any straw they can when it comes to a developmental issue with their child.
  3. Doesn’t the green bubble directly contradict what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends? The article and what we know about speech development recommends that parents and other humans teach children to speak, not phones. Any time spent that the child spends looking at an iPhone or some other electronic device is time that is not spent face-to-face with a human being.
  4. Speech therapists are probably not using things like iPhone apps to teach children to learn to speak. When I was observing speech therapists who were working with young children I did not see any electronic devices. (Granted that was 10 years ago, but I doubt things have changed that much, especially when it comes to small children, birth to three.)

As a society we need to separate out the sexy allure of technology from parenting in ways that are natural and proven to be effective. There’s an unethical blending of the two that occurs, particularly in the media.

Years of experience show us that the media is the strongest influence over how a society develops and identifies itself. Let us not be consumed and swayed by that.

If we as consumers of the media fall pray to such irresponsible advertising, especially when it comes to our most precious commodity – our children – then I am very worried about the future. Please act responsibly and be an informed and discriminating consumer of the media. There is no panacea for things like speech delay and speech acquisition. If a $2.00 iTunes app could solve the problems of child speech delays then there would be no need for speech therapists and there would be very few children with speech delays.

It’s a gimmick and it leads parents to believe that technology is the answer…even when it’s not.

Furthermore, wouldn’t you rather teach your child to speak than a telephone app?

I know I would.

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Now THIS is a Playground!

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One of the techniques of the Waldorf School is to provide open-ended objects to children and to allow the child to freely project meaning onto the object. Toys with concrete meaning already ascribed to them are less favorable because they require less of the child’s diverse imagination.

 This last weekend I went to the Wood Lake Nature Center in Richfield, Minnesota. http://www.woodlakenaturecenter.org/ It is a large green area smack dab in the middle of the city. It’s a Waldorf parent’s dream.

I’d never been to before and I was amazed! It was a dream come true for those who believe that the child’s imagination should come from materials that don’t already have assigned meaning to them. The children use their own creativity and ideas to decide what they want to do with their surrounding and their environment. They are free to let their imagination run wild.

This nature area has a beautiful indoor center where children can see snakes and turtles and salamanders in fish tanks. The center also has plenty of windows for viewing birds eating at the feeders.

But what follows blew my mind! It was the outdoor playspace.

A “back to nature for children” dream come true!

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No slides, no structures. Just one big fenced in area with two really big trees. No man-made objects. Just sticks, small logs, trees, rocks, stones, slices of trunks of trees.

The kids were in HEAVEN!

Climbing Trees.

Building Forts.

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Scaling high peaks.

 

     

Or staying close to the ground on rocks just her size.

 

    

The bridge was also a lot of fun.

And when we tired of that, we went for a walk on the paths listening for crickets, frogs and birds.

Into the woods,

 

   

where the ferns were exploding and so were the smiles!

 

Around the marshlands and lakes we went.

It was like a fairy tale. Just gorgeous!

(Our younger companion enjoyed nature from her stroller.)

But later fell asleep!

If you live in Minnesota, check out the Wood Lakes Nature Center. It’s a treat!

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Living “Hands Free” and Technology Free for Your Children
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Advocating for Your Child to Remain Electronics Free

Children and Screen Time

The other day I caught my two year old holding my cell phone in her hand as if she were playing a video game and I felt my heart sink. I know technology is in the world but I would like to shelter her from it as long as possible. Despite this, we are no strangers to t.v., computers or smart phones in our household. In the mornings I will oftentimes let her watch a few minutes of “Spider”, or “Charlotte’s Web”, as it is more commonly referred to, while I get ready for work. On the smart phone she talks with her grandmother and looks at pictures we have taken together. However, the questions in my mind about technology and screen time run rampant as she is at a very tender age of development and I only want what is best for her developing brain and personhood. Ask any parent about screen time and their children and more questions than answers will arise. In addition, opinions vary widely, ranging from ‘computers are good for your children’, to ‘I would prefer if my child never interfaced with a screen again’.

Recently, I have written about my own personal beliefs regarding children’s use of technology. I have mentioned that I believe technology interferes with socialization, relationships, and that it is much more important for children to be interacting with other human beings and with nature than with screens.

I have grappled with the question as to why children explicitly should not be exposed to technology and how to respond to the argument that technology is educational.

Given my ideology, how do I respond if a parent says to me, “Yes, I let my child use the ipad and the computer during the day. It’s educational.” Can I say, no, it’s not educational? Of course not. But the following is what I can say.

Children and Technology

Experiential learning, meaning hands-on learning, results in better  problem solving skills, creativity and imagination than technology.

  1. Because technology plays such big role in our lives today, children are often engrossed in two dimensional visual experiences. During that time children are being taken away from the more important, three dimensional, hands-on experiences, social experiences, and experiences in nature.
  2. The gains that can be made through a computer or an iPad can just as easily be made through some other experience. For instance, counting or the alphabet can be learned by use of a computer, but they can also be learned through experiences that involve interacting with another human being or with objects that they can touch, feel, and experience.
  3. The rise in technology is resulting in a decrease in the amount of time children spend in nature.
  4. Children’s brains are not designed to handle the fast moving pace of many cartoons and “children’s” television shows. Slow moving shows like Sesame Street are more appropriate for the child’s developing brain.
  5. Nature is by far much more important developmentally to children than technology.
  6. Technology, such as smart phones or computers, are addictive. The more your child plays with them, the more they will want to play with them. Think about your own experience with computer games or your cell phone.
  7. Children start to rely on technology when they get bored rather than on social relationship and their imagination.

Do the gains made by having your children play with an iPad or a computer outweigh the gains that can be made by having your children engage in imaginative or creative play, in a social experience or in nature? Let’s find out.

Detrimental Effects of Screen Time

According to the Mayo Clinic (2011), too much screen time is linked to the following:

  • Obesity. Children who watch more than two hours of TV a day are more likely to be overweight.
  • Irregular sleep. The more TV children watch, the more likely they are to resist going to bed and to have trouble falling asleep.
  • Behavioral problems. Elementary students who spend more than two hours a day watching TV or using a computer are more likely to have emotional, social, and attention problems.
  • Attention problems. Exposure to video games increases the risk of attention problems in children.
  • Bullying. Children who watch excessive amounts of TV are more likely to bully than children who don’t.
  • Impaired academic performance. Elementary students who have TVs in their bedrooms tend to perform worse on tests than those who don’t.
  • Violence. Too much exposure to violence on TV and in movies, music videos, and video and computer games, can desensitize children to violence. As a result, children may learn to accept violent behavior as a normal part of life and a way to solve problems.
  • Less time for play. Excessive screen time leaves less time for active, creative play.

Recommendations for Screen Time and Children

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has made very specific recommendations for children in regards to screen time.

For children under the age of two, the AAP recommends NO screen time including background television intended for adults.

  • For children over the age of two, AAP recommends limiting a child’s use of TV, movies, video and computer games, to no more than one or two hours a day.
  • The AAP states that there are no known positive effects of screen time for children younger than 2 years and potentially negative effects. (D’Arcy, 2011)

In her Washington Post article, D’Arcy (2011) goes on to summarize the AAP’s stance on children and screen time by highlighting that “parents are usually fooled into thinking certain materials are ‘educational’ when there’s no evidence to support that.” She states that the AAP finds “unstructured playtime . . . more valuable for the developing brain than any electronic media exposure.” From a pediatrician’s standpoint, according to D’Arcy, unstructured playtime is “more beneficial for children to develop creativity, problem-solving and reasoning skills . . . . and better for developing motor skills.”

Summary

Although there is likely nothing WRONG with allowing your child to watch an hour or so of T.V. a day, or play with your ipad for awhile, the question remains, what is your child missing out on? Why not encourage your child to grapple with finding a way to spend an hour of down time? Why not take the extra-time to find a way for your child to expand their creativity and problem solving skills? It will be worth the effort in the long run.

References and Further Reading

Black, R. (2012). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17495032

D’Arcy, J. (2011).  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-parenting/post/aap-reaffirms-no-screen-time-for-young-children-even-though-few-parents-listen/2011/10/18/gIQAZvpkuL_blog.html

Manjoom, F. (2011). http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2011/10/
how_much_tv_should_kids_watch_why_doctors_prohibitions_on_screen.single.html

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2011). http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/children-and-tv/MY00522

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If you don’t advocate for your child, who will?

This week a friend told me a story about a little fourth grade boy who is being bullied at school. His mother is at her wit’s end. The fourth grade boy is in a combined classroom (4th, 5th and 6th grade). A sixth grader is picking on the little boy – let’s call him Raul. Raul is little for his age. He was born earlier and comes from a long line of skinny children. He’s underweight for his age. The sixth grader is dumping out his lunch when he’s not looking. When Raul tries to retaliate by hitting and calling names he gets suspended.

But this is not where it ends. Unfortunately, technology also plays a role in all of this. The sixth grader bully has a smart phone that he takes to school with him and which he uses on the playground. He also has a Facebook page and he looks at the internet while he’s outside “playing.” The school called the sixth grader’s parents and they said they were okay with this.

I don’t know the details but apparently some of the sites he visits and images he shows around to the other kids and not G rated and some contain violent images.

Who is there to protect our children against other children’s (and their parents’) misuse of the internet and of technology? When did it become okay for children to be using the internet or smart phones during recess? Recess? Really? When I think of recess I think of kickball and dodgeball, not sixth graders passing around their smart phones to young, young children. Recess is a time for our children to socialize and get physical activity, not to surf the web.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a Montessori school interviewing the director of the school to see if it would be a place where I would want my children to be eduated. One of the criteria in my selection involves a LACK of technology in the classroom. That’s right, you heard me. No computers. No iphones. No internet. I want my child to be a child for as long as possible and for her to use her intellect and creativity, not a computer.

Another mother was at the meeting with a similar goal of finding an appropriate school for her child. However, during the question and answer, she asked the director if her 3rd grader can bring her iPad to school. I’m pretty sure my face showed it all as much as I tried to avoid looking shocked. Fortunately, the director politely explained the policy on such devices and said that the third grader would not be able to bring her iPad to school. Outside the mother (who seemed like a perfectly nice woman) confided in me that the school her son is currently attending, and the Montessori we were attending, “needed to join the 21st century.” I didn’t have time to explain at length why I disagreed but I did tell her my views were very different.

So back to little Raul. If I were his mother I would in that school faster than you could blink an eye, demanding a meeting. Demanding to know what the school was going to do to protect MY child from the misuse of technology on school grounds. It is the school’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for all children attending the school. Schools can and do make policies to protect themselves and their students. Just because a parent thinks that it is okay for her son to be playing on the internet and sharing it with his peers does not make it okay for him to be exposing these things to other children on the playground or anywhere else on school grounds. Nor does any of this have its place in a public school environment. Public libraries have restrictions on internet sites that adults and children can view mostly for the protection of children.

Cell phones, ipads, iphones have no place on school grounds. At best they are detracting and distracting from the learning that is supposed to be taking place; at worst they are exposing other children to material that their parents may not want them to see.

Parents must be proactive and must protect their children. Insist on a no cell phone policy at your child’s school. Phones can be left in the locker or taken away and returned at the end of the day. Contact the PTA. Ask for a meeting with the principal. Do what you need to do to protect your child and to ensure the best learning environment possible. Leave parental decisions about cell phones and the internet to the home environment where they belong. Not on the school playground, where they go unsupervised.

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