For several months I’ve been carrying around a New York Times article, How Advertising Targets Our Children, from the February 11, 2013 edition. Written by pediatrician Perri Klass the Well Blog post points out that recently published research links, even more strongly, the exposure of alcohol advertising to a child’s movement toward unhealthy behaviors.
Dr. Klass writes about Exposure to Alcohol Advertisements and Teenage Alcohol-Related Problems (abstract), a Pediatrics article describing new research that finds a stronger association between unhealthy behaviors and the amount of advertising in the lives of children and adolescents. The researchers followed nearly 4,000 children in grades seven through ten.
In her article Klass quotes the researchers, experts from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy, and pediatrics professors from the Children’s Hospital at Stanford University who have studied the links between childhood obesity and screen time.
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…