Pediatricians and Teachers Alarmed by Too Young Techies

Over the past several weeks I have read several commentaries written by early-childhood specialists, a pediatrician and several public school teachers on the subject of toddlers and children using technology. Everyone of the individuals voiced concerns about basic childhood development and increased desensitivity to technological surveillance as a part of everyday life. The subjects talked about ranged from the onsie created with Mimo, which incorporates a sensor and microphone into the garment worn by a baby. The fact that 38% of children under the age of 2 have used a mobile device for media compared to 10% 2 years ago. The question of whether we are teaching our children to accept surveillance and the monetization of their every move and thought allowing them no chance to opt out of force-fed marketing at a young age. Plus the case of a New York school canceling the kindergarten school play to allow the children more time for college prep.

Do not misunderstand me and think I don’t accept technology’s place in today’s society but also know I often think we let it intrude unnecessarily. The tech savvy onesie was created to alleviate parental stress when attending to an infant and the baby monitoring hardware attached to a Fischer-Price bouncy chair does the same. Janet Lansbury, an early childhood specialist has concerns about both of these produts because they limit face-to-face time with a parent. Her point is that babies are wired to learn from human contact not images changing constantly on a shimmering screen. In fact she states that these “virtual babysitters” harm normal development processes and discourage exploring the world around you. This in turn leads to passive rather than active thinking. Active thinking fosters a love of learning while passive thinking promotes intellectual apathy. Software developers tout their eductional apps as promoting learning and most parents agree with this concept. However, early childhood specialists say they are not sold on this idea because it takes years of research and study to know the long-term effects of major developmental changes and technology is moving so fast it gives no time for study and thought. Dr. Alanna Levine of the American Academy of Pediatrics is adamant that we do not want to replace learning and interaction with parents by educational apps. She states that hearing the human voice and reading facial expressions encourages the ability to focus, problem-solve and discern things like cause and effect.

English teacher, Robin Edwards-Harvey, is definitely concerned about the increased usage of technology at a young age and termed it a bit Orwellian. Many people question whether data collected from technological babysitting devices is sold and used without prior knowledge of the parent or guardian. The manufacturer can offer assurances but with big data mining on the rise these same parents say they cannot always be sure this won’t change without their consent. Take the fact that the popular app, Facebook, can now use data mining to ascertain where you are and what you are doing based on background noise they collect. This information is used to target advertising raising the question of at what age do we wish to subject our children to profiling and monetization.

Play as a learning tool was the subject of one of my earlier blogs and I can attest to it as a great learning tool and child psychologists agree with me. I witnessed my children learn by doing and for them it was play. Doing things like building forts, creating their own drive through store and making historical costumes and implements not only fostered creative thinking and problem solving skills but it also contributed to building self-confidence. These facts had teachers and parents alike up in arms when the New York school chose to cancel the kindergarten play in lieu of increased time for college prep. One parent asked if an after school job fair was the next step?

The workforce of today and the future will definitely need to possess technological skills but when should these skills be learned and honed? book-smallAfter homeschooling my four children, I can say with confidence that children are masters of learning once they can think for themselves, problem solve and gain self-confidence. Knowing this leads me to believe that mastering technology will be the next step to using knowledge learned not replacing it.

 

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