As we approach the end of 2012 and the holiday season that will surely introduce new gadgets and devices into many of our households, it’s a good time to reassess family digital expectations.
Learning in the 21st Century requires that children competently use digital resources much of the time. To do this each student needs plenty of experience making choices, understanding limits, and mastering the art of filtering out what is immaterial at any given point. Children who get this guidance at home and at school are the most prepared to become effective learners.
These eight tips aim to help parents of digital kids to get started. If you teach, consider sharing them with your students’ parents.
1. Place computers and tablet devices in central, well-traveled locations — away from bedrooms and private spaces.
2. Make adults, not children, the administrators on all computers, including laptops until you are certain of each child’s decision-making. Know what is installed on your child’s mobile devices.
3. Print and post rules and expectations. Specify the times when you do notwant your children using computers. Emphasize that your family rules are in effect when your child goes to a friend’s house.
4. Help your children to come up with a strategy that helps them to distance themselves whenever and wherever inappropriate digital activities occur.
Parents and educators know how much children and teens love to explore the digital world, and that’s not going to change. What needs to change is the way companies collect information about kids’ digital activities and then use it for marketing purposes, much of it exploitative. The Do Not Track Kids Act aims to stop tracking the activities of children and adolescents and encourages companies to adopt a Digital Marketing Bill of Rights for Teens.
I’ve just read a November 28, 2011 Bloomberg article, iPad Crazed Toddlers Spur Holiday Sales. OK, the title is a bit overly dramatic, but it’s an interesting read, describing the demand for tablets of all kinds and kids’ motivation to use them.
Seriously, though, the tone of the article makes me worry a bit. As a confirmed techie, gadget lover, educational technology specialist, teacher, and parent, I know that children also need lots of outside play time and plenty of experiences working/playing with others. We don’t know what the jobs will be in 15 years when these kids are looking for employment, but we do know that their superior technology skills will matter little if they don’t have great people skills — understanding how to share, take turns, and work collaboratively.
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 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.