Technology and Our Children: What’s Going On?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a statement encouraging parents to ban direct screen time (television, movies, and any portable screen device) for children under two years of age. The Academy explained, “This updated policy statement provides further evidence that media — both foreground and background — have potentially negative effects and no known positive effects for children younger than 2 years. Thus, the AAP reaffirms its recommendation to discourage media use in this age group.”

A recent survey conducted by Common Sense Media indicates that many parents are ignoring the Academy’s advice. In the survey, found here, thirty seven percent of the households surveyed reported that over forty percent of their children under age two watch either TV or DVDs at least once a day. In a typical day, babies and toddlers spend an average of fifty four minutes watching TV or DVDs, compared to an average of twenty three minutes a day being read to. Twenty nine percent of 6 to 23 month olds in this study have a television in their bedroom (Emphasis and loud gasp ours). The Academy’s statement has been debated in cyberspace (where else) and has received pushback from parents who suggest that it is unreasonable and unrealistic to ban all screen use, and prefer instead to allow their toddlers to watch “Sesame Street” or play a game on the Ipad in moderation.

The Common Sense Media survey also found that about forty percent of 2- to 4-year-olds and more than half of 5- to 8-year-olds use smart phones, video iPods, iPads or similar devices. Common Sense has determined that in addition to the substantial digital divide (which exists because the majority of children from lower income and less well educated families do not have a computer at home), there is now an “app gap” between higher and lower income children, in terms of their access to and use of newer mobile devices and the programming available especially for these devices.

Of particular note to the GCP audience are the study’s findings pertaining to race. African American children aged 0-8 average about forty minutes more television, DVDs and/or video watching per day than their white counterparts. However, they spend more time reading per day than white children as well, albeit only thirteen minutes more.

As children are introduced to technology at home at younger and younger ages, educators are hotly debating whether technology aids or hampers their learning at school. While some schools are rushing to provide laptops to their students as noted in a recent article found here, others are dramatically reducing or eliminating technology in schools, as was reported in a recent NY Times article found here.

Whenever your children are introduced to technology, their understanding how to use it in a productive and enriching manner is critical. This can be tough to encourage, especially for parents who are not up to speed on the latest technology themselves. But help is available. Apple stores nationwide regularly provide in house digital education workshops for children free of charge. Google and go to your local Apple store’s website, click on “Youth Programs”, and check out what programs are being offered. The programs are designed for children ages 6-13, but younger children may attend if accompanied by an adult. Some Apple stores also offer musical events and book readings for children, so the site is worth looking into even if your children are digitally savvy. If you are in the New York City area, take your children to the Sony Wonder Technology Lab. Their website, found here, is full of free and low cost technology based
activities for children to enjoy.

Readers, are you delaying your young child’s introduction to technology, or does your toddler know how to use your laptop better than you do? Are you OK with your young ones having screen time? If so, are they using educational programs, or do they just play? And are you making sure they are spending the same amount of reading or being read to? GCP wants to hear how you are handling this brave new world of technology. Let us know!!

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2 Comments

Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 8-12, Entertainment

2 responses to “Technology and Our Children: What’s Going On?

  1. Three

    As the father of a young child, I limit the use of TV but will use technology as a learning tool. I have seen a speech therapist use an ipad to assist with comprehension skills. I do not feel that limiting access to technology is beneficial at this point in our society.
    We do allow some television watching (educational) but are sure to toss in a few “pop quizzes” on what was just shown. We also read every night before bed.

    • Love the idea of “pop quizzes” on the reading! A fun way to find out how your child absorbs what he is watching. Agree that it is important to learn about and embrace the good in technology, as it will be an important part of our young children’s development, for better or for worse. Thanks for reading and joining the conversation! GCP