Thursday, March 20, 2014

On The Topic Of Banning Handheld Devices

A couple weeks ago an article made the rounds online about why handheld devices should be banned for children under the age of 12.  This caused quite a stir with a lot of parents shaking their heads and others nodding emphatically.  If you know me personally, then you'll know that I'm a huge fan of technology.  My son will most likely be a huge fan of technology as well.  Instead of banning handheld devices for your children like Cris Rowan (author of the aforementioned article) seems to think should be done, I present some alternate ideas on how to address your concerns regarding technology.

Do not use technology as a babysitter

It used to be that whenever we heard about studies on ADHD and developmental disorders, people were always quick to blame television.  Nowadays it seems something more relevant is being blamed, iPhones and portable gaming devices.  You constantly  hear about children becoming zombies to technology as they sit in front of their devices for countless hours pressing away at games or chatting with their friends.  What I want to know is where are the parents?  Why are these kids allowed to sit for hours on end without some sort of stimulus from the outside world?  Everyone is quick to point the finger at technology for ruining our children's attention span but why didn't the parents step in?  Allowing a child to play on a handheld device is not intrinsically a bad thing.  There are countless forms of educational entertainment you can find on iPhones, iPads, and even gaming machines like the Nintendo 3DS that would do wonders for the brain development of a child, but these tools aren't meant to replace physical activity or social skills gained from playing with other human beings.  Let your child have their time on the handheld device and help them find these apps that are a dime a dozen nowadays, but don't overdo it.  Give them a time limit and then afterwards take them to the park for a quick game of catch or take the dog for a walk as a family.  

Help your child spend their digital time wisely site
As mentioned in the previous section, there are a number of educational apps/websites that your child can use to learn not only about the world around them but better their minds for learning in the future.  The IT field is full of possibility and allowing your child to get familiar with all things digital early in their life will better prepare them for the digital world they are growing up in.  Sites like Tynker and are extremely worthwhile sites to introduce your child to the world of coding, something that is used heavily in any tech industry today.  If your child doesn't take to coding there are sites like Duolingo that help you learn different languages through short, interactive online web games.  Apps exist on the iPad and iPhone that help kids explore the cosmos from their couch or view the inner workings of the human body.  All of these are wildly beneficial to your child's education and are all made possible with technology.  By banning these devices you are removing these tools from your childs life and putting them at a disadvantage when they experience these for the first time in life.  Instead, access these tools as a family and you can ensure your child is making the most of their digital time and not breaking the first rule of using tech as a babysitter.

Game ratings exist for a reason - use them

Not for children
If infuriates me whenever I read an article and the topic of children and violence in videogames is brought up.  Without a doubt the first game they mention each and every time is Grand Theft Auto.  You might see a Call of Duty or a Battlefield mention, but GTA is the favorite of the group.  Why does this frustrate me so?  Because that's a game meant for adults.  The rating is M (for Mature) on each of the previous games I mentioned meaning that you can't purchase it if you are under the age of 17 without parental consent.  Gamestop employees are required to card or speak to a parental guardian to allow someone to buy the product.  I've seen grandmothers buy these games for their grandkids and when the clerk informs about the rating and asks for permission it's given without a second thought.  There isn't any worthwhile evidence to say that violence in gaming causes violence in children, I'm not arguing for that, what I am arguing for is that children should not be playing these types of games.  When gaming hit it's stride in the 80's, most of us were kids.  The gaming industry grew up with us and as our tastes changed so too did the industry.  Parents need to be aware of the ESRB rating on all games before they buy them for their children.  If you are a parent and you buy games for your child, take some time to review the rating system at ESRB (US) or PEGI (UK.)  There are age appropriate games out there for people of all ages and styles but just because it's called a video "game" doesn't mean that it's for children. 

Feed your kids a healthy diet

The article mentions that obesity is caused by gaming systems in bedrooms or children spending X amount of time in front of a television/handheld device.  What they don't mention is that the parents are the ones who are providing the food to fuel the obesity to their children.  Again, I put this on the parents 100%.  Banning the use of technology won't fix the "obesity epidemic", eating correctly will with adequate physical activity.  If you follow my first piece of advice and actually take the time to raise your child instead of letting technology do it for you and you feed your children a balanced diet you'll find that your PS4 wasn't slipping twinkies into your child's lunch.

These are just a couple of the reasons why I think Rowan's article on banning handheld devices is complete nonsense.  Technology isn't something to be feared but it's also not something to abuse.  By using common sense and good parenting techniques, you can ensure your child will both have a jump start on their technological future and have a great relationship with you in the process.  

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