October 23, 2012

Exposing Children to Technology

A few months ago one of my mom’s groups discussed technology. It started as a conversation of elementary kids and cell phones, which everyone seemed to be against, but quickly grew to other forms of technology like personal computers and tablets. I was shocked to learn not a single one would allow their child to have a personal computer in their room prior to high school. Not a one. Many wouldn’t even allow it then. My fellow moms wanted to protect their kids from the Big Bad out there on the internet. At a time when even some elementary schools are considering giving their students pads as a learning device, this kind of concern seems short sighted.

“[Someone who] out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow” – President Obama

The Internet has become the great equalizer. Don’t have access to the best schools? You can take classes online like Khadijah Niazi, the eleven year old Pakistani girl who was the youngest ever to pass an online college-level physics class. She learned the material by watching youtube videos at the same time the Pakistani government decided to block youtube.

The bar for achievement keeps claiming higher each year. The kids at the intel science completion are writing computer simulators to solve complex mathematical problems at 16 and 17. Sixteen! Like it or not, this is the level of competition. You can’t write a simulator at sixteen if you’re just learning to use the computer at fifteen.

An often cited recommendation from the AAP is no screen time for children under 2. If you read the press release they’re largely talking about TV watching and passive screen time (e.g. watching a video on youtube). Studies have failed to prove “educational” toddler and infant programs have any real benefit. Worse, some studies suggest some specific media programs may be detrimental. Even ambient TV on in the background can distract a parent from engaging in a child. There’s also secondary concerns not mentioned in the press release about things like eye strain. All these are real concerns, and yet, I keep finding myself coming back to this one idea: there’s a difference between active and passive screen time.

Am I naive enough to think Nicki can learn shapes from tablet and phone apps? Of course not. But she is learning. She is learning that she can interact with the iPad, that it reacts to her touches. We don’t do it often, certainly not every day or every week, but we do let her have it occasionally, and plan to continue to do it. Over time she’ll learn how to control the tablet. When she’s old enough to actually benefit from the educational programs, she will have already mastered the tool. That’s not a bad thing in my book.

This isn’t to say you can’t be successful without growing up with a computer. Of course you can. And it’s not to say there aren’t scary things and scary people on the internet. Of course there are. Technology is a tool that can be used for good and bad. I personally feel the benefits out way the risks.

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  1. […] as a positive by society). I’ve employed cry-it-out. I’ve even admitted to breaking the no media before two rule. I’ve admitted all these things here and while I absolutely think these were the right things […]


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