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Parenting and the Touch Screen

Like most Evergreen families, mine spent the last week out of our usual routine.  We traveled. We spent time with friends.  We enjoyed lots of time outdoors.  And I spent considerable time observing my teenage children interact with media (that’s another way of saying that I watched my 14-year old persistently post to Facebook and my 12-year-old daughter tirelessly texting friends).  Unfortunately, my wife and I struggled to set appropriate “vacation boundaries” around my children’s use of technology.

Handheld technology for children is controversial. As the article called The Touch Screen Generation in the latest issue of The Atlantic Magazine makes clear, there is no consensus in the education community about the value or the threat of hand-held devices for young children.  You may also be interesting in today’s Michel Martin’s NPR show Tell Me More.

For me, the more time children spend in the tactile, physical world, the better.  The more time they spend engaging with real people, rather than machines, the better.  The more time they are creating, exploring and questioning, the better. That said, interactive apps have the potential to simulate some of the best aspects of sensorial materials such as hearing words in another language or seeing images from faraway places.  iPads can be potent tools for learning and they can be powerfully over-stimulating distractions for young, developing minds, too. 

In our school, each classroom is well endowed with all the learning materials a child might need to grow and learn.  At home, on vacation or grandparents’ houses, parents will do well to set the kind of limits and boundaries that children need—just as we have always done.  

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