Sam Penman and Eunice KimTeachers

No one can deny that the younger generations (Millennials through Centennials) have waaaaay more screen time than we ever did! The simple fact is, they do!

The basic generation breakdown:

1965-1976 = Generation X,

1977 – 1995 = Millennials (1980-1990)

and 1996> = Generation Z, iGen or Centennials.

Slight segue, but interesting tidbit. Have you noticed how there seems to be more and more traffic on the roads in the past year or so? Ms. Ashley (Center Director) was in a traffic jam recently, and frustrated asked Siri why. She was informed that the increase in cars on the roads is due to all the Millennials now being of driving age and having access to cars! Oh, that makes sense.

When I was growing up we only had one TV (with 4 channels) and one landline, so viewing or phone calls were restricted to when we were home. There was no such thing as “binge-watching”, well at least not until we could afford a VCR. Technology is a controversial beast that seems difficult to tame in the 21st century we live in. Whether you are on board or not, our society will continue to be more and more dependent on digital mediums as we “evolve”. With our increase in use of smart phones and tablets, children are more and more competent on these devices from a young age. My own son could unlock and operate most devices independently and with ease since he was 18months old. While it’s clear that this is a necessary skill to maintain and build on, moderation is key.
There are valuable attributes that children can gain from being proficient in and constantly advancing IT and all it entails. Thousands of apps, forums, websites, games, programs, e books, etc. impart information or teach everything from animal sounds to calculus. These modern-day tools assist in making learning accessible, developmentally appropriate and fun. However, there is a dark side to the equation. Children with access to these devices or screens in general, can accidently or inadvertently experience exposure to the potentially dangerous world wide web. Additionally, excessive use of devices can result in addiction/dependency on devices, lack of social skills, impatience, even obesity.
The common understanding and goal is that we ourselves, and future generations develop the ability to apply technology wisely – to our advantage. We want younger generations to use their imagination and develop their problem-solving skills, but in a safe and appropriate manner. Far too many people use the internet for negative purposes like cyber bullying or to entice children into inappropriate or worse, dangerous/life threatening situations. That is a topic unto itself and parents are wise to learn about, explain the risks with their children when appropriate, and prevent exposure in the first place.
So, how can we make sure our children get the best of both worlds? There are a variety of tools that can help. There are now various apps that allow parents to block certain content, monitor their child’s usage, set time restrictions and lock/shut down devices remotely. Some examples of options out there are The Family Link app for androids and Ourpact for iOS devices. Qustodio or Dinnertime Plus are more comprehensive and can protect all your devices including computers, laptops, kindles, phones etc. (costs $50/year and up depending on the number of devices).

All things IT can be considered a double-edged sword. Are we losing the ability to interact in person and/or make friends? Is our development stunted because life essentially has no on/off switch? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Dr. Liraz Margalit highlights “The Critical Period” which lays the foundation of future brain development. From birth through three years of age young brains are developing rapidly and are “particularly sensitive to the environment around us.”, “a child needs specific stimuli from the outside environment.”, and “these essential stimuli are not found on today’s tablet screens.”.

Some past and current benefit examples worth mentioning include how much this medium assists folks that may be housebound or live/work remotely. Growing up in Australia, I remember learning about School of the Air . Even older generations and those that live in remote locations have periodic access to digital interaction on some level. At the very least they utilize and benefit from having an email account or smartphone. Skype or other video chat functions and social media sites such as Facebook allow us to keep in touch with far flung family, friends or work associates. The Bay area is very diverse and our ScuttleBugs families love to share posts and pictures with those who can’t be physically present to watch the little ones grow and thrive.

Tech gadgets run the gamut from glorified babysitter to educational tool. Most of us with children have heard the story of the daycare or babysitter who plonks the kid in front of a TV or screen all day, or have been guilty of this themselves. Case in point for the latter, knowing your baby is safe and engrossed in a show while you take that long overdue shower or tend to all the other household chores uninterrupted. For the record, ScuttleBugs only has one TV in the teacher’s lounge – but to be honest the staff are usually on their own devices during their breaks anyway.

There are countless articles and books on the phenomena known as “Distracted Parenting”. Parents /Caregivers /Nannies who are on their devices and not paying full attention to the children in their care. We as adults need to power down regularly to delineate between the fantasy world and reality. Interact in person, get out and about. Just as the wise Dr Spock recommends in his "Advice" read real books together. One of our team told me of a funny moment when she was reading a book with her young nephew and he literally tried to pinch zoom the text on the page!

This NPR article by Jon Hamilton looks at both sides of the debate: Initial knee-jerk studies implied “ that children who spent too much time watching TV or playing video games were more likely to develop ADHD.” However, Leah Krubitzer and many in the field of science and medicine don’t necessarily agree. “It's true this sort of stimulation may desensitize a child's brain in some ways, they said. But it also may prepare the brain for an increasingly fast-paced world.”.

Many parents struggle with the dilemma of how much is too much? According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids spend only 16 minutes a day using the computer at home for school; in contrast, younger children spend 5 ½ hours and teens 8 hours each day with entertainment screen and phone technologies. That extraordinary amount of time spent playing with devices is often at the expense of kids engaging with family, reading, and completing schoolwork. Regardless of your view or opinion, a common underlying theme in my research (and mentioned in this blog) is for parents to focus on the “Science of raising healthy children”, that encourages balance and more interactive hands-on learning practices (and no, hands-on a device doesn’t count).
We’re guilted into thinking our kids will be left behind or not do as well at school unless they have their own or access to a number of devices. Additionally, it’s become a very useful tracking/communication/security tool among family members. I get it, I really do and while it meets the needs of many families, I’m still not a big fan of children having their own phone or social media accounts – especially unfettered or unsupervised. Schools and enrichment classes encourage skills in gaming/blogging/programming etc. by incorporating them in the syllabus. It might even bring you closer to the young ones in your life if you learn more about these aspects together. Need I say more than the commonly known success stories of Evantube, Twin Toys, Dan TDM, and that lady who just commentates opening Kindersuprise eggs to name a few! For more forward planning parents and educators, I found “Digitization of Reality” to be a fascinating read.
Technology permeates our lives in countless ways. We are exposed to screens constantly in our personal and professional lives. They’re everywhere, and some would say we are at saturation point. Phones, computers, tablets, GPS, advertising displays, smartboards/presentation systems etc. etc. Our society and commerce compel us to interact via digital and telecom means. IT is prevalent, critical, and intrinsic in the infrastructure and operations of most industries and governments throughout our “small world”: military, science, space, transportation, education, finance, security, engineering, biotech etc. All in all, I embrace technology and advancement in the digital age. That being said, I definitely believe and agree that we need to ensure appropriate content and restrict the amount of usage time, according to each child’s individual capabilities and needs. Do some research, arm yourself with all the facts. Set realistic limits and most importantly - don’t sabotage the agreed arrangement by indulging in too much screen time yourself!