It seems there’s always a new mobile device, game console, or movie that catches our children’s interest, because they live in the same world we do and we love it! There is increasingly more and more technology piling up all around us. Parents have always worried that their children spend too much time using technology and not enough time exploring the world away from the screens. When I was a boy (cue to rocking chair, beard stroking, and glassy eyed reminisce of the 90’s) my screen-based entertainment options were television and Nintendo. And big screen movies, of course. My parent’s only option was probably the television, but they had the moon landing. So outdoors was more attractive. Now technology is available on such screens that leave television in the dust. Little screens, big screens, touch screens. Screens as big as your head! If the kids are looking at too many screens, should we ban them?
The Huffington Post recently published 10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12. Pediatric occupational therapist, Cris Rowan advocates adherence to published guidelines for technology usage by children and calls on, “parents, teachers and governments to ban the use of all handheld devises for children under the age of 12 years.” She then lists ten reasons technology is bad for children. Sounds great, and I agree with all of them. Unfortunately, a few unconsidered lines about the responsibility of government to ban something best regulated elsewhere, ruins the heart of the message.
I don’t know the intentions of the author, but it’s possible that the points I rail on here were simply afterthoughts. But they were written, and even in the title. She presents good research on why children should spend less time in front of screens, but then leaves the door open a crack for legislation enthusiasts to start sharpening their pencils. I know I’m reading into what is really a minor angle of the article, but my point is to remember our own responsibility before we start advocating outright bans which negate individual decision making.
A better title would not have begun with the numerical “10” or used the word “Banned.” That reads like check-out line trash. “Coerce your Community in 10 Easy Steps by Imposing Your Values on Them.” As this certainly is not an article about governments or bans, the title is misleading in calling for a “ban” at all. Is the author actually advocating legislation that would make it illegal for people of a certain age to use handheld devices? Not in this article, no. So why say so? Words have meaning, so be careful. What happens in your own house is a rule, not a ban.
The author identifies three distinct groups as the audience for her 10 Reasons, thus indicating that all three share some responsibility on guiding the use of these devices. However, in calling on “parents, teachers and governments,” she is calling on too many people. The government is assumed to be an acceptable authority, casually grouped with parents and teachers.
If the government is any given authority to ban the use of something, then it doesn’t really matter what the parents or the teachers think, so you can’t include them all. And, if the parents are directing the activity of their own children at home, and the teachers are directing the activities of the enrolled students at school – what and where is the government’s place in influence the activities of children?
Not every child is affected equally by their use of technology (gasp!), nor by anything at all. Most importantly, not every child is playing the same games or using the same apps. “Technology” is a really, really big blanket, the four corners of which are not even hinted at in this article. The difference between an action packed racing/shooting/blow ’em up adventure game and a counting/spelling/learn to sing and compose your own music iPad app is measured by the parsec. Case in point: YOU don’t know what a parsec is, do you? You have NO IDEA. Admit it. Something to do with space and distance. Maybe Star Trek. And since you don’t know, your kid won’t know either – since it could be illegal to use a hand held device to look it up.
Click here for more info on parsecs. Must be 12 or older to learn!
My son is three years old and doesn’t play any games involving fast cars, ninjas, or tanks. But he loves his occasional shows and educational games and embraces his limited and supervised time interacting with the computer and iPad. He is learning to spell and count. He gives a monster a hair cut and makes a make-believe sandwich, which he then shares with me. I tried to teach him some basic addition but he wasn’t paying attention, since he is just three and I was just using words. Since I don’t like math I couldn’t make it appealing and was I probably frowning too much. (Grrr…math). But after some time with a mathematics app involving little animals and lots of bubbles, he recently informed me that 2 and 2 is 4. He preferred to learn it his way.
My son also loves singing and playing music. He has a guitar, and a ukulele, and a harmonica. He is very loud, but he’s also very talented. I don’t love playing music. I don’t have any musical skills at all, but I sing with him anyway and he doesn’t know enough to run away – yet. He’ll only get so far with me as a music teacher, but there’s an app for that. It teaches him how to compose his own music.
If you want to be like these guys, go for it. This family banned all technology invented after 1986. That means Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is Ok, but “Bad” is a no-go in the world of arbitrary dates. They didn’t like the way technology had taken over their lives, so they did something about. Whatever their reasons, that family probably experienced most of the 10 Reasons stated in Rowan’s article and they acted accordingly, for themselves. The danger in suggesting that the government should do the same for all of us, even if presented casually and well intentioned, could rob many children of valid life enriching opportunities. So steer clear of bans!