Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Toddlers, Magazines, and "Broken iPads"

#1. Toddlers, Magazines, and "Broken iPads"

Toddlers, Magazines, and "Broken iPads"

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a procedure statement today which continues its stance, previously posited in its 1999 position statement on children and media, to keep children younger than two as "screen-free" as possible. The old position statement was primarily targeted towards television. The current statement is updated to include all screens- Tv, computer, iPad, iPod, etc. The Aap cites their study and conclusions that the best ways to look after sure early brain development are through active unstructured play.

Toddlers, Magazines, and "Broken iPads"

On the other hand, the choice of apps for toddlers and preschoolers continues to grow daily. The development of "lapware" (software for babies and toddlers to use while sitting on their caregiver's lap) is a rapidly growing industry. Recently, a video was posted on YouTube entitled A Magazine is an iPad that Doesn't Work. The video is of a young toddler, playing with an iPad and then apparently touching magazines as though they were supposed to function like an iPad. The text that accompanies the video says "a 1-year-old growing up among touch screens and print". The video text goes on to say that technology "codes" our brains, which are compared to "operating systems". Furthermore, the video states that the toddler must think the magazine is an iPad that " doesn't work" since it doesn't retort to her touch. The person who posted the video asserts that magazines will become obsolete to these young children "digital natives".

My impression of the YouTube video is that the intention of the video was a bit tongue-in-cheek and lighthearted and the accompanying text was just exaggerated and hyperbolic to be catchy. As all of us on collective media know, grandstanding is the way you originate views on YouTube. More absorbing to me than the video was the argument threads that it started. This video and its assertions aside- naturally humorously intended or not- the argument that this video sparked indicates the huge concern that we currently have as a community over the corollary that technology will have on children and their development.

After weeding through the verbally abusive and obnoxious comments and the off-the-cuff emoticons Lols and such, the majority of the serious comments range from:

This baby should be playing and not using tech toys. - jdperini


Why is it bad to give an iPad to a one year old baby? When I was a child they gave me books, they didn't give me animal blood so I could paint in the wall of a cavern. Now she has an ipad. That is Humanity's progress. - thecresteb

The line is clearly drawn between those in favor of introducing young children to technology, citing the importance of human progress, today's tech-savvy marketplace etc., and those in favor of limiting technology for children, citing the importance of interactive adults as opposed to screens for learning, active play in early childhood, etc. Of course, as with all high-emotion discussions, the loudest voices allege that it is all black and white, no grey allowed. Either, children should be exposed to every form of technology the instant they leave the womb or not at all until they are old enough to have a drivers' license!

On one hand, I must consider, that the Aap recommends seriously limiting screen exposure for children, recommending even zero exposure if potential for the under two crowd. On the other hand, I must reconsider how difficult zero exposure is to achieve in today's world, especially in a house with a mixed age of children. Unless we put ultimate limits on our tech usage as parents- i.e. Never retort a text message in front of your baby, never look up a formula on a website in front of your toddler, never allow the older siblings to watch Tv colse to the infant, etc.-it is impossible to keep screen exposure out of the lives of the 0 to 2 crowd. The Aap does retort this impossibility and encourages parents to diligently set limits. That I think is the greatest point to feature in regards to young children and technology: boundaries. But isn't that the case in all of parenting and educating young children... Heck, isn't that the case in all of life?!?

As usual, it boils down to moderation. Extremes are commonly unhelpful in my opinion. A child who is Never allowed near technology is as disadvantaged as the child who spends All his/her time in front of some sort of screen. I think every generation will have its concerns about what new technology will do to convert our lives. For this generation it's the iPad, the one before us it was Tv, and before that it was radio, and before that, etc., etc.... But with moderation we can operate anything new technology comes along and not become controlled by it. Children should learn moderation through their parents' examples and limits-setting.

That said,- as cliché as beating the old "moderation" drum is- if there is err to be had I would rather err on the side of less technology exposure than more. The young child who learns primarily through screens and other passive means (i.e.. Computer games, Tv programs, worksheets and workbooks, etc.) may admittedly become comfortable and customary with technology, but won't vital keep up with the changing times as he/she will not have the early experiences that originate an active, absorbing and innovative mind which is what is most needed to keep up in today's world. On the other hand, a child who learns primarily through active exploratory means (i.e. Building, painting, experimenting, assembling, climbing etc....) will more likely have the early experiences that fabricate a creative, agile, and versatile mind. A child with that active early education may grow up to originate technology rather than naturally knowing how to use it. "The Uni­ver­sity of North Carolina's Abecedar­ian Early Child Inter­ven­tion pro­gram found that chil­dren who received an enriched, play-oriented par­ent­ing and early child­hood pro­gram had sig­nif­i­cantly higher Iq's at age five than did a comparable group of chil­dren who were not in the pro­gram (105 vs. 85 points)" (quoted from Can We Play by Dr. David Elkind).

While my husband has a few apps on his iPod for my preschooler, and while I allow both my toddler and preschooler the occasional Tv time with the educational channels like Sprout, Pbs Kids and formerly Noggin, now Nick Jr., still I prefer to get on the floor and build block towers with them, get messy up to our elbows painting a big red barn, and dance colse to in our dress up clothes. I prefer to spend time with them on my lap reading book after book, not clicking prompt after prompt from the lapware of choice. I don't want to be dogmatic; I am at heart a realist. Technology is a part of our lives and our children's lives, as it should be. But as far as I'm concerned, play-free, unstructured, active, screen-free play-should have preeminence in early childhood.

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