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Technology – No longer the enemy

Posted on: February 6th, 2016 by

Tech Can Be A Friend

By: Tori O’Brien

Awhile back, we posted in our blog (here) about the debate regarding using technology as a learning tool and the suggested usage guidelines by the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics). You can find that post here. The AAP usage suggestion seemed a bit daunting (none for children under the age of 2 and 1 hour for children over the age of 5). However, these guidelines were created in 1999 with good reason and when the technology boom was not really a consideration. The AAP is currently working on revising their technology usage guidelines for children and are due to publish them this coming fall.

CNN Reporter, Kelly Wallace, wrote a great article about the AAP’s updated stance on technology use for kids. Find it HERE. Kelly Wallace spoke with Dr. Brown, the chairman of the AAP group investigating children and media use and Dr. Brown said “the two hour screen time limit previously suggested for kids over the age of 2, is just not the reality of what’s happening and so we (the AAP) need to address our world as these kids are growing up digitally native.” She also commented that the recommendation of no screen time for children under the age of 2 is unrealistic these days.  However, the article does make sure to highlight (and Learning Foundations would too) that the doctors and research show that mindless TV watching or screen time leads to little to no activity occurring in the brain – not what we want. The “more the technology use approximates live two-way communication the more a child under 2 will understand and process it.” What we can take from this is engaging WITH your child during screen time means the child will get a significant amount more out of that time than if you just plop them in front of a device. The AAP also recommends looking into how engaging Apps claiming to be educational really are. Currently, there is no regulation on that title, so the claim could be connected to an App that is just as mind-numbing as a YouTube top Pop music video. Common Sense Media is an organization that curates and rates children’s content for parents. Use this or another rating source when choosing what to allow your child to engage in, so we know it is actually educational and worth their time and yours.

For older kids, the same holds true with engaging with them (as we do with device based games in our sessions), but also be sure to set guidelines. Employ Tech Free Zones in your household and child’s life (these are best received when modeled by you, the parent). This is a great way to teach your child how to balance tech and life. A few great suggestions for tech free zones are at the dinner table and in bedrooms. These stand out because the importance of the activity that occurs in these spots on the positive growth of your students emotional and social development are well documented. Also, know what your child is watching or engaging in. Dr. Brown says “the quality of content is more important than the platform or time spent with it;” again another reason why engaging with your child during technology time is a plus. We don’t want kids to be on devices all day long or attached at the hip to them or obsessed with their social media statuses; helping them regulate there attachment to tech devices from the beginning will help keep these issues at bay. These devices should not be the most important thing to them, but just an addition or enhancement to their daily activities.  “It’s about teaching them balance in all areas” Dr. Brown says and spending quality, one-on-one, focused time with your child.

Parenting expert, Nigel Latta, agrees and says parents shouldn’t be against technology use (or feel guilty) about it, but they should keep an eye on the child’s screen time. Another study out of the UK found that students who had no device engagement for 5 days were better able to label and process human emotions. This means that no screen time or less screen time leads to more human interaction, which engages the brain and the social building skills more acutely in children. (Find that NPR article HERE).

Stephan Pham from Education Week Teacher even claims that technology use for (older) students can be character building. Tech use can teach them responsibility, independence, trust, carefulness, resourcefulness, accountability, and problem-solving. Parental or teacher help and interaction as well as guidance is essential in the beginning of tech use for developing these skills. (Read the full article HERE).

So, technology is not the enemy anymore, but must be acknowledged and controlled. HERE is a great article that sums up the scary things that can result from too much screen time and then gives 12 very practical and relevant ways to limit your child’s screen time. Pool those practical suggestions together with engaging with your child during screen time and we just might get the best of both worlds, as well as intelligent, engaged, emotionally and socially capable adults.

How do you regulate your child’s technology use? Were any of these ideas helpful for you? And did they work? Have you had parent guilt over your child’s technology engagement?

Continue this conversation with us by commenting below.


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