Sunday, March 9, 2014

10 Reasons Why Banning Hand Held Devices for Children Under 12 is A Bad Idea

There's this HuffPost Parents article buzzing around the web lately.  Honestly, it makes me furious.

So I'm going to go ahead and rebut it here on my blog.  You might want to refer to the original article so you know what I'm talking about, but I don't think that's necessary.

My son (age 9) with his hand-held device.

1.  Rapid Brain Growth.

It's been proven that children's brains are growing rapidly between the ages of 0 and 2.  They are also growing after that (surprise!).  During any phase of childhood, it is important for kids to receive adequate stimuli in order to enhance and stimulate brain growth.  Hand held devices allow children access to all of the information known to human kind at the click of a button.  They can watch videos from all over the world - educational and "non-educational" ones.  They can play games that are interactive, artistic, and beautiful.  Through this device, they have a small portal into the world beyond - things they may never get to see with their own eyes.  Their brains are busy making all sorts of connections - this is, after all, how brains develop and grow.  In order to make more connections, children must be exposed to more things.  A hand held device not only allows for this to happen quickly, efficiently, and cheaply, it also allows them to talk share their experiences with grandma from 1,000 miles away and catalog real-life experiences in photographs and video to re-experience in the future.

2.  Delayed Development.

If all that a child does from ages 0 - 12 is play on a hand-held device, their development might be delayed.  Putting a child in a room without any human interaction might do this as well.  Making them sit in a classroom without any outside stimuli at a desk for 7.5 hours/day will also require less movement, which will, as we see from the original article, delay brain development.  We shouldn't be blaming this on hand-held devices, unless we are also including textbooks and novels.  This is on the parents.  Take your kids outside.  Walk around.  Share the hand-held device experiences with your children, rather than always using the device as a babysitter.  Use it to film things, take photographs of nature walks, and enhance fine motors skills and spelling with texting.

3.  Epidemic Obesity

Hand-held devices can actually decrease the chances of childhood obesity as they allow children mobility while playing, talking, chatting, and photographing.  Apps allow kids to track their movements and race with friends.  Obesity stems from poor diet and lack of exercise - not playing on hand-held devices or carrying them in our pockets so our parents don't have to worry so much when they drop us off at the home of a friend or with a group to see a movie.

4.  Sleep Deprivation

Kids stay up late doing things they love.  They might be watching a movie, talking on the telephone, reading a book, or using their hand-held device.  Adults do this too - we finish our movie, we clean up the mess, we have a late-night snack, we write a letter to a friend.  Unfortunately, many children also have to wake up much earlier than is natural for them in order to attend school or go to other activities.  Some parents think that "sleeping in" is a sign of laziness, rather than using time to catch up on sleep debt.  If we allow our children to get as much sleep as they need when they are sleeping and schedule times for them to rest when they are tired, we'll find that hand held devices make zero difference in the equation. 

5.  Mental Illness

Hand-held devices and technology don't cause mental illnesses, though many people who already have them use such things to self-medicate or fuel their depression.  How often do you use your cell phone, watch television, use a land-line, play a game online, check your email, use a credit card machine, make a copy, or take a digital photo?  Are you mentally ill?

6.  Aggression

Though many violent children also play violent video games, plenty of peace-loving hippie kids also play the same games.  Studies have found that playing such games actually coordinates with a decrease in violence, allowing children to work out strong emotions and aggression in a safe zone, without harming anyone, rather than taking it out on those around them.  Read more on this excellent gaming blog by game designer, educator, and writer, Shamus Young. 

7.  Digital Dementia

The use of alliteration for effect here is extremely misleading.  Digital media does not cause dementia or anything like it.  In this paragraph in the original post, the author discusses contributions by digital media to Attention Deficit Disorder.  Receiving information more quickly does not cause attention deficit disorder.  Streaming at a high speed simply makes information appear quickly - much like turning the page of a storybook or speaking to the person in front of you in a conversation.  ADD is cause by a different wiring in the brain stemming from an evolutionary call to hunting vs. farming.  You can read all about it here.    If your child has ADD, they might actually be helped by focusing on gaming, texting, etc. rather than hindered.  Spoken from classroom experience in the public school system, those students with ADD and ADHD thrive in environments where their brains can remain busy - if they are trying to listen to a lecture, they may be helped by doodling, cutting paper, or making a chain of paperclips.  During a test, they might find it easier to work with music in the background.  Taking away their devices will likely just make them frustrated.  It won't "cure" their ADD.

8.  Addiction

Banning hand-held devices for children isn't going to make neglectful parents better parents or stop addiction when children are filling a need their parents should be filling.  This has no bearing on technology, the world, or hand-helds, but has everything to do with parents who need to tune in to their children.

9. Radiation Emission

We've been using cell phones in some way, shape, or form since the 90's as a part of mainstream culture.  Radiation emission has been discussed, researched, and put aside as we grow into a culture where technology rules, and cell phones become necessary, expected, and as common as home computers (maybe more common).  We are surrounded by radiation, especially of this type, constantly.  While hand held devices might increase our exposure, there have been no definitive links to disease causing agents, and while we'd like to pin point a specific cause of cancer, the truth is, we simply can't.  We have chosen as a society to turn a blind eye to cancer causing agents in the consumption of too many meat products, so it is doubtful we will, in the near future, decide to ban cell phone usage on the whole.  Our kids are going to be around it anyway - and while this isn't a great reason to expose them, realizing that this is the direction of the future (smaller, more handheld, more portable, more powerful technologies), it is a failure on our part to deprive our children of the head-start they could be getting on using this technology until they reach some arbitrary milestone in age.  This is their future.  Hand held, small computers and programming will be their world.  Our job as parents is to prepare them for that future, that world, to the best of our ability - not to shield them from it to their detriment.

10.  Unsustainable

The author doesn't actually explain this one.  It's just there, hanging out, that kids are going to need help and we can't keep raising them with all this technology.

Here's the thing - technology is fact.  It is here before us.  It is a part of our lives.  Our job as parents is to raise into adults who can navigate their world well.  We don't know what that world will look like, but I can guarantee that taking away current technologies and hiding under our pillows in fear of this type of progress won't help our kids navigate the world in the future.  The adults of the future will need to understand and wield technology in ways we cannot even imagine.  Fear based articles like these are detrimental to parents - we're all trying to do our best and fear mongering can really make us lose it (it happens to all of us).  We all want to do the best we can with what we have.  Use your best judgement.  Do the research yourself.  Get to know your own children.  Play games, watch television and movies, and Picto Chat with them.  Ask them questions about why things are interesting to them.  Let them capture video and photography of the things that mean something to them.  Have conversations.  Ask them how they're feeling when they do this or that.  But don't give in to fear.  Don't trash the DS or the cell phone.  Wield them with experience.  Wield them with power.  Know just what you have and learn just how to use it.  Then share that with your children, who will one day be adults who need the tools you've shared with them to get to the next generation.   


Jamie said...

Yay! Thanks for your rebuttal. Well written. I completely agree.

Anonymous said...

totally disagree with this, but just my opinion. I think the radiation is a huge risk (research children's skulls being more thin and more susceptible to radiation), texting while driving a terrible downfall of society and kids walking around with a cell phone in hand is a terrible way to grow up. I hate cell phones, they are addicting, dangerous and a sad era in human history.

Missy said...

Hmm... I understand your fears for sure. I don't think that texting while driving is a necessary result of the existing technology. People make those choices on their own - the device doesn't cause them to do it. I sometimes look back on my childhood with a lot of fondness too, but am grateful to have a cell phone to keep in such great touch with my family (far away) and friends with whom I might have otherwise lost touch. It can look sad and dangerous, but from another perspective, it can look quite beautiful. Thank you for reading and for commenting as well. I appreciate both perspectives.

Anonymous said...

Moderation, moderation, moderation. Nothing is all bad or all good. Thanks for this response. I did not like the huffington post just because it felt like the answer is all or nothing. I do think there is too much tech for kids these days but I also think this is about teaching moderation not elimination.

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