…And This is Just Messed Up

So I was just writing about 21st Century Learners — a company that offers training and support for technology integration in schools. The description, What is 21st Century Education? includes this following photo of a cute little kid, about three years old maybe, and he’s all wowed out about something on a laptop, which is almost as big as he is. The caption says “iKids in the New Millenium.” The author of the piece, enraptured, states:

“Even toddlers utilize multimedia devices and the Internet with tools such as handheld video games like Leapster and web sites such as www.PBSkids.org and www.Nick.com. Preschoolers (including my 2-year-old grandson) easily navigate these electronic, multimedia resources on games in which they learn colors, numbers, letters, spelling, and more complex tasks such as mixing basic colors to create new colors, problem-solving activities, and reading.”

I’m thinking: “Aren’t you remotely worried about what that might be doing to his little brain?” I’m no Luddite, but I’m not about to embrace technology with the kind of Utopianism that this author’s thinking seems to embody. Because the thing is we don’t know how “iKids” are going to turn out. The whole screen time for kids thing isn’t a natural evolution (as this website seems to suggest), it’s a giant, uncontrolled experiment.

With all the “brain science” going on these days – and it’s so varied it really doesn’t help us with the kids and technology problem very much [1] – I hope someone, somewhere, will discover how to keep the euphoria and critical thinking switches on at the same time. In that way, the hopes and possibilities we invest in to all the changes I’ve seen in my own life time might be balanced out better by slowing down, taking stop, and weighing all the evidence – not just evidence that supports what you already believe to be the case anyway.

Any thoughts, stories, or experiences with kids on the Internet? What age is appropriate for kids to start having “screen time,” and how much is too much?


Notes and References

[1] A quick go-to for two recent, radically different perspectives on the impacts of technology use: Rowan, C. (2010). Virtual Child: The Terrifying Truth about What Technology is Doing to Children. And this is only “Volume I.” Wow. From the “Yay Technology” camp: Davidson, C. (2011) Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn


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