Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Technology in schools... where to draw the line?

Are we going to end up like the folks in WALL-E?
I am a technology addict.  I can honestly say I am more technologically proficient than many of the people who work in my office building.

That said, I wasn't a tech-heavy kid growing up.  I remember using Apple computers in school to learn typing, play educational games (Math Blaster, Oregon Trail, Reader Rabbit) and eventually, once I entered middle school, for typing reports and researching for projects.  I remember using the internet consistently starting in 6th grade.  I watched a limited amount of TV, but we didn't have cable until I was in junior high and all video games were absolutely banned by my parents.  Even in high school, we spent VERY limited time on computers; any typing we had to do was usually homework.

Everywhere I go these days, kids are plugged in...  playing on their parents phones (or even their OWN smartphones), iPads, Nintendo handhelds, etc.  They're even more sucked in than I am.  (And they are increasingly fatter.  Coincidence?)  Some say that the technology is educational, but I tend to disagree.  There is no evidence that things like Baby Mozart help your infant's brain, and I think that books have more value than an electronic 'Leapster' learning toy.  Libraries are an incredible resource!  I hate to see kids have their lives taken over my TV and other 'screens', because they should enjoy their youth while they can; leave the iPhone to the grownups.

The research backs this up.  Medical studies have shown that kids under age 2 shouldn't even be exposed to TV... even in the background.  It just doesn't help them develop; in fact, it may hinder them.  Interactive play is better for them.  When I have kids, I hope to enforce this rule, though it will actually mean sacrifice on my part to watch less television.  I don't agree with TVs in ANY bedrooms, let alone a kids' room.  But I do worry today's youngsters just aren't developing well in this digital bubble.

Ironically, the Silicon Valley tech folks who bring us these gadgets feel the same way.  It seems quite a few of the folks at companies like Google and Apple are sending their kids to TECHNOLOGY-FREE schools.  They use pen and paper.  They read books.  They don't even interact with 'screens' until 8th grade.  I think it's brilliant.  Did you know some kids these days can't even read cursive handwriting, let alone write in it?  I don't see why schools are scrambling to get laptops and tablets for students, thinking an app can teach them basic math and reading skills better than old-fashioned paper can.  It's sad.

I was 25 when I got my iPhone... does a toddler need one?
I understand that in some cases, if tablets can be purchased and maintained in a classroom, the school could potentially save money putting textbooks on them, and using PDFs instead of handouts to save paper.  But what I foresee is tons of kids with glasses and eye strain, short attention spans, and lack of motivation to run around because recess has disappeared.  This quote really spoke to me... One boy "recently went to visit cousins and found himself sitting around with five of them playing with their gadgets, not paying attention to him or each other. He started waving his arms at them: “I said: ‘Hello guys, I’m here.’ ”"

Once again, I'm rambling on about a topic without offering a solution, and I'm bordering on hypocrisy because I spend countless hours at work and home staring at a screen.  But I don't want that for young kids.  I want them to have the outdoor play and sports teams and other fun we all had as kids.  Seeing toddler toys with slots for iPhones disturbs me.  And I think it should disturb even more people.


  1. Here's another article that I received in response to this post, from my friend (who is a teacher) CF:

    "The study found that fully half of children under 8 had access to a mobile device like a smartphone, a video iPod, or an iPad or other tablet... And almost a third of children under 2 have televisions in their bedrooms."

    Screen Time Higher Than Ever for Children

  2. Another point that my friend pointed out that I missed... I do think technology can be used to enhance our kids' lives. I think that an iPad (time limited) could be a neat tool for a toddler. But at the same time, it is no substitute for a parent.

    Technology can be a good thing when not abused, but using it as a pacifier or copout parenting is the wrong answer.


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