Reposted from: Higher Perspective
It really says a lot when the creator of the iPad wouldn’t even let his kids use an iPad. When asked by New York Times reporter Nick Bilton if his kids loved the iPad, he replied:
“They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”
That’s quite the response! Among tech executives, there’s a growing trend of parents who won’t let their kids use the very technology they invent. They’ve even taken to sending their kids to Waldorf Schools where computers are nowhere to be seen and hands on learning about nature and the arts is front and canter.
“My kids accuse me and my wife of being fascists and overly concerned about tech,” says Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D robotics and father of 5. “They say that none of their friends have the same rules… That’s because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand. I’ve seen it in myself, I don’t want to see that happen to my kids.”
When it comes down to it, our electronics can be addictive, and that goes for children too. I’ve seen young children be delayed [sic: denied] access to an iPad, and when I mean young, I mean, 2, only to have it result in a complete meltdown. It’s like taking a junkie’s junk away from him. So are we robbing our children of an opportunity, or are we opening them up to a life free of what Steve Jobs and Chris Anderson are concerned about?
I think at some level it’s important for kids to know how to use computers, but to use them with respect. We weren’t allowed free run of the television or computer (when we finally got one) when I was a kid, after all. Make sure kids get to spend plenty of time outside in nature. They might act like jerks about it now, but they’ll thank you later in life.
RELATED POST: Are Video Games Destroying Children’s Imaginations?
Kids And Screen Time: What Does The Research Say?
Kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens, and it may be inhibiting their ability to recognize emotions, according to new research out of the University of California, Los Angeles.
The study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, found that sixth-graders who went five days without exposure to technology were significantly better at reading human emotions than kids who had regular access to phones, televisions and computers.
The UCLA researchers studied two groups of sixth-graders from a Southern California public school. One group was sent to the Pali Institute, an outdoor education camp in Running Springs, Calif., where the kids had no access to electronic devices. For the other group, it was life as usual.
At the beginning and end of the five-day study period, both groups of kids were shown images of nearly 50 faces and asked to identify the feelings being modeled. Researchers found that the students who went to camp scored significantly higher when it came to reading facial emotions or other nonverbal cues than the students who continued to have access to their media devices.
“We were pleased to get an effect after five days,” says Patricia Greenfield, a senior author of the study and a distinguished professor of psychology at UCLA. “We found that the kids who had been to camp without any screens but with lots of those opportunities and necessities for interacting with other people in person improved significantly more.”
If the study were to be expanded, Greenfield says, she’d like to test the students at camp a third time — when they’ve been back at home with smartphones and tablets in their hands for five days.
“It might mean they would lose those skills if they weren’t maintaining continual face-to-face interaction,” she says.
A Wake-Up Call For Educators
There’s a big takeaway for schools, Greenfield says.
“A lot of school systems are rushing to put iPads into the hands of students individually, and I don’t think they’ve thought about the [social] cost,” she explains. “This study should be, and we want it to be, a wake-up call to schools. They have to make sure their students are getting enough face-to-face social interaction. That might mean reducing screen time.”
The results of the UCLA study seem to line up with prior research, says Marjorie Hogan, a pediatrician at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis and a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
“Common sense tells me that if a child’s laying on his or her bed and texting friends instead of getting together and saying, ‘Hey, what’s up,’ that there’s a problem there,” she says. “I want people interacting … on a common-sense level, and an experiential level. It does concern [me].”
Hogan relates the UCLA study’s findings back to research on infants.
“When babies are babies, they’re learning about human interaction with face-to-face time and with speaking to parents and having things they say modeled back to them,” she says. “That need doesn’t go away.”
How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?
For decades the AAP has warned that children need to cut back on their screen time. The group’s latest prescription: Entertainment “screen time” should be limited to two hours a day for children ages 3-18. And, for 2-year-olds and younger, none at all.
The sixth-graders who made up the sample in the UCLA study self-reported that they spent an average of more than four hours on a typical school day texting, watching television and playing video games.
The San Francisco nonprofit Common Sense Media studies screen time from birth and, in 2013, found that children under 8 (a younger sample than the kids in the UCLA study) were spending roughly two hours a day in front of a screen.
“If used appropriately, it’s wonderful,” Hogan says of digital media. “We don’t want to demonize media, because it’s going to be a part of everybody’s lives increasingly, and we have to teach children how to make good choices around it, how to limit it and how to make sure it’s not going to take the place of all the other good stuff out there.”
“We really need to be sure that children, and probably older people, are getting enough face-to-face interaction to be competent social beings,” Greenfield says. “Our species evolved in an environment where there was only face-to face-interaction. Since we were adapted to that environment, it’s likely that our skills depend on that environment. If we reduce face-to-face interaction drastically, it’s not surprising that the social skills would also get reduced.”
What About ‘Educational Screen Time’?
Research out of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, a nonprofit research and production institute affiliated with the Sesame Workshop, suggests that less than half the time kids between the ages of 2 and 10 spend in front of screens is spent consuming “educational” material.
The center also looked at family income as a determining factor of screen time. Lower-income families reported that their children spent more time engaging with educational screen activities than higher-income families did. Fifty-seven percent of screen time for families earning less than $25,000 was education-focused, compared with 38 percent for families earning between $50,000 to $99,000.
How To Limit Kids’ Screen Time?
Of course, as media multiplies, it’s increasingly difficult to manage kids’ screen time. Where several decades ago, television was the only tech distraction, kids now have smartphones, tablets and laptops — not to mention electronic games.
“We need to make media a part of our lives, but in a planned, sensible way,” Hogan says.
Her suggestion: Families should encourage a “healthy media diet” for their children. Parents and kids should work together to decide how much time to spend with media every day, and to make sure good choices are being made about what media to take in.
How Technology is Changing the Way Children Think and Focus
Are your children prepared to think and focus for success in 21st century life?
From: Psychology Today
Thinking. The capacity to reflect, reason, and draw conclusions based on our experiences, knowledge, and insights. It’s what makes us human and has enabled us to communicate, create, build, advance, and become civilized. Thinking encompasses so many aspects of who our children are and what they do, from observing, learning, remembering, questioning, and judging to innovating, arguing, deciding, and acting.
There is also little doubt that all of the new technologies, led by the Internet, are shaping the way we think in ways obvious and subtle, deliberate and unintentional, and advantageous and detrimental The uncertain reality is that, with this new technological frontier in its infancy and developments emerging at a rapid pace, we have neither the benefit of historical hindsight nor the time to ponder or examine the value and cost of these advancements in terms of how it influences our children’s ability to think.
There is, however, a growing body of research that technology can be both beneficial and harmful to different ways in which children think. Moreover, this influence isn’t just affecting children on the surface of their thinking. Rather, because their brains are still developing and malleable, frequent exposure by so-called digital natives to technology is actually wiring the brain in ways very different than in previous generations. What is clear is that, as with advances throughout history, the technology that is available determines how our brains develops. For example, as the technology writer Nicholas Carr(link is external) has observed, the emergence of reading encouraged our brains to be focused and imaginative. In contrast, the rise of the Internet is strengthening our ability to scan information rapidly and efficiently.
The effects of technology on children are complicated, with both benefits and costs. Whether technology helps or hurts in the development of your children’s thinking depends on what specific technology is used and how and what frequency it is used. At least early in their lives, the power to dictate your children’s relationship with technology and, as a result, its influence on them, from synaptic activity to conscious thought.
Over the next several weeks, I’m going to focus on the areas in which the latest thinking and research has shown technology to have the greatest influence on how children think: attention, information overload, decision making, and memory/learning. Importantly, all of these areas are ones in which you can have a counteracting influence on how technology affects your children.
You can think of attention as the gateway to thinking. Without it, other aspects of thinking, namely, perception, memory, language, learning, creativity, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making are greatly diminished or can’t occur at all. The ability of your children to learn to focus effectively and consistently lays the foundation for almost all aspects of their growth and is fundamental to their development into successful and happy people.
Attention has been found to be a highly malleable quality and most directly influenced by the environment in which it is used. This selective attention can be found in the animal kingdom in which different species develop attentional skills that help them function and survive. For example, wolves, lions, tigers, and other predators have highly tuned visual attention that enables them to spot and track their prey. In contract, their prey, including deer and antelope, have well-developed auditory attention that allows them to hear approaching predators. In both cases, animals’ attentional abilities have developed based on the environment in which they live.
The same holds true for human development. Whether infant recognition of their parents’ faces or students paying attention in class, children’s immediate environment determines the kind of attention that they develop. In generations past, for example, children directed considerable amounts of their time to reading, an activity that offered few distractions and required intense and sustained attention, imagination, and memory. The advent of television altered that attention by offering children visual stimuli, fragmented attention, and little need for imagination. Then the Internet was invented and children were thrust into a vastly different environment in which, because distraction is the norm, consistent attention is impossible, imagination is unnecessary, and memory is inhibited.
Technology conditions the brain to pay attention to information very differently than reading. The metaphor that Nicholas Carr uses is the difference between scuba diving and jet skiing. Book reading is like scuba diving in which the diver is submerged in a quiet, visually restricted, slow-paced setting with few distractions and, as a result, is required to focus narrowly and think deeply on the limited information that is available to them. In contrast, using the Internet is like jet skiing, in which the jet skier is skimming along the surface of the water at high speed, exposed to a broad vista, surrounded by many distractions, and only able to focus fleetingly on any one thing.
In fact, studies(link is external) have shown that reading uninterrupted text results in faster completion and better understanding, recall, and learning than those who read text filled with hyperlinks and ads. Those who read a text-only version of a presentation, as compared to one that included video, found the presentation to be more engaging, informative, and entertaining, a finding contrary to conventional wisdom, to be sure. Additionally, contrary to conventional educational wisdom, students who were allowed Internet access during class didn’t recall the lecture nor did they perform as well on a test of the material as those who weren’t “wired” during class. Finally, reading develops reflection, critical thinking, problem solving, and vocabulary better than visual media.
Exposure to technology isn’t all bad. Research(link is external) shows that, for example, video games and other screen media improve visual-spatial capabilities, increase attentional ability, reaction times, and the capacity to identify details among clutter. Also, rather than making children stupid, it may just be making them different. For example, the ubiquitous use of Internet search engines is causing children to become less adept at remembering things and more skilled at remembering where to find things. Given the ease with which information can be find these days, it only stands to reason that knowing where to look is becoming more important for children than actually knowing something. Not having to retain information in our brain may allow it to engage in more “higher-order” processing such as contemplation, critical thinking, and problem solving.
What does all this mean for raising your children? The bottom line is that too much screen time and not enough other activities, such as reading, playing games, and good old unstructured and imaginative play, will result in your children having their brains wired in ways that may make them less, not more, prepared to thrive in this crazy new world of technology.