After reading this I am feeling a bit more pessimistic than usual. Adults are used to tossing health caution to the wind for themselves, but we were vigilant about protecting the health of our children. Now we seem to disregard the recommendations of pediatricians — the very people who can help us do the most possible to ensure that our kids grow into strong and productive adults. Are we as a society less and less concerned about the development of strong minds? Times reporter Tamar Lewin writes:
Despite the American Academy of Pediatrics’ longstanding recommendations to the contrary, children under 8 are spending more time than ever in front of screens…
I hate receiving so much unwanted e-mail! In my family we follow most of the rules. We don’t sign up for contests or take quizzes. We don’t post our e-mail addresses in strange places, and we never forward chain letters or respond to the many ridiculous things that arrive in our electronic mailboxes. Yet the message glut is frustrating everyone in my family on a daily basis
Of course some of the mail arrives because I’ve signed up for alerts or news, but other messages arrive for unknown reasons. After ordering from a catalog, I’m often asked to provide my e-mail address so a confirmation can be sent — which I like. But then, suddenly, I start receiving daily messages — which I don’t like. In fact, when a store or catalog starts sending me several e-mails a week, my inclination is not to order from them again.
I don’t mention this often, but 30 years ago when our television broke, we had a new baby and not enough money, so we decided to put off the purchase of a new TV. The delay went on for six years until our daughter was seven years old. Originally we did not make a decision out of any deep philosophical principles — and back then there was a lot less research about the effect of TV-watching on young children — we simply did not have money that we wanted to spend on a new set just then (or we had other things we wanted to purchase — I really don’t remember). However, gradually we forgot our plans to purchase a new television because we liked what happened in our family.
We read more, we listened to music more, we ate less junk food, and during the times we were at home, we played lots of games and went to the park almost every day after we returned from work. By age 2-and-a-half our daughter could beat both of us at any memory game we put out on the table. We also read aloud, all the time. In fact, we read so much that sometimes we needed to go to the public library twice a week. Listening to the radio, sometimes NPR and at other times classical or oldies was a regular activity, and we went to movies.
Recently I read Tracy Grant’s article, The Case for Spying on Your Kids, in the October 5, 2011Washington Post, and it’s well worth reading. Grant believes that parents should keep close track of their children’s online activities. After I finished the article I decided it’s unfortunate that so many people equate keeping an eye on a child’s digital activities with spying. It’s not spying.
From my perspective, it’s just fine for parents to closely supervise the digital activities of kids, just like parents supervise non-digital endeavors. Understanding what’s going on, setting limits, teaching children to follow website rules, and defining expectations — as children encounter more and smaller personal computers and digital gadgets — are important responsibilities. Knowing what’s going on is a part of parenting.
Yet learning about what’s going on takes time, a scarce resource for many adults, and the situation gets even more complicated because the digital skills of many children outpace their parents.
In Grant’s article Balkam points out, “The history button on a computer is a very important tool for parents.”
The digital world offers many opportunities to help children learn, collaborate, and grow as digital citizens, and we want our children to become literate and savvy consumers of online resources. Strong digital parenting — even when a parent is in awe of a child’s online prowess — is one of the ways to ensure that children grow into confident, respectful, and competent learners.
The other day when my 88-year-old dad wrote a daily blog post — about the life and achievements of Steve Jobs — I realized, once again, just how much Jobs’ life, vision, and achievements are a part of our general culture. More importantly, how much Jobs changed our lives.
One doesn’t need to be digitally savvy, a gadget fanatic, an iPhone evangelist, or even a Macintosh loyalist. All that’s required is experience with one intuitive Apple product — in this case, my dad writing on his iPad — and an interest in the news.
Over the many years that I’ve spent working in the educational technology field, that’s the way it’s gone again and again. Give students, teachers, a senior adult — in fact just about anyone — a Mac computer or iPad, and they use it and work with it independently. We tech people barely see them because they are off using their computers.
Check out the laptop care article, Make Sure the Problem is Not in Your Chair, in the September 30, 2011 New York Times. I found half a dozen suggestions for laptop maintenance that I don’t do. The article is written by Kate Murphy. (The headline refers to the laptop problem being the person in the chair, not the laptop.)
Here are things that I do wrong, according to the article.
1. I use the laptop while it’s in my lap or on a squishy pillow — causing too much heat to accumulate.
2. I close my laptop and get up while it is still processing and barely finished saving data.
3. I never put my laptop to sleep when I am ready to move around.
4. I do not shut down and reboot my computer every few days. Instead I wait until a freeze or some other indication that a restart is needed.