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posted Apr 22, 2017, 7:30 AM by Christine Roman

April 24, 2017

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I have recently read two new articles relating to children and technology. One article was called, “What’s the Right Age for a Child to Get a Smartphone?” in the NY Times. The other article came from the NY Post and it was called, “It’s digital heroin: How screens turn kids into psychotic junkies.”

In the first article, the consensus was that the longer parents wait to give their child a smartphone the better. In a study published by Common Sense Media they polled 1,240 parents and children and found 50% of the children admitted that they were addicted to their smartphones. It also found that 66% of parents felt their children used mobile devices too much, and 52 % of children agreed. About 36% of parents said they argue with their children daily about device use.

In the article they talked not just about the addictive distractions, but also how phones can detract children from schoolwork, impact them socially, and expose children to issues like online bullies, child predators, and sexting. As an administrator every year, I will deal with incidences of students sending inappropriate texts and/or pictures and how those interactions also impact their learning and relationships within our school building. “Last year, at least 100 students at a Colorado high school were embroiled in a scandal that involved trading naked pictures of themselves on their mobile devices.”

Although I didn’t care for the title of the second article, the information intrigued me. This article focused on all digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers, and video systems. According to a 2013 Policy Statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 8 to 10 year-olds spend 8 hours a day with various digital media while teenagers spend 11 hours in front of screens. One in three kids are using tablets or smartphones before they can talk. For many children addictive behaviors start to appear and they are having a hard time stopping or controlling how much they play. The article shared a mother’s experience with her son and his technology use and addiction.

In reflecting on this article, we as educators needs to be cautious of how much we promote computer games such as Minecraft and other education apps. We sometimes send a mixed message of how much learning and problem-solving students can experience by playing these games. However, most of these skills can be obtained by building with Legos, playing board games and participating in extra-curricular opportunities.

Both articles shared different thoughts and ideas for parents as they navigate in our world of technology. They mentioned to wait as long as you can before giving your child a smartphone. When parents feel it is appropriate or needed, the experts recommend starting with a simple mobile device that features only calling. Then once your child shows responsibility to change to a phone with both calling and texting. Finally, opting for smartphones in later teen years. For technology, research and medical studies are publishing reports that suggest to significant limit screen time for toddlers. Balance and “less is more” are two terms used in both articles.

The last item I found interesting in reading these articles was that “Steve Jobs was a notoriously known as a low-tech parent and some Silicon Valley tech executives and engineers enroll their kids in no-tech schools.”

I know personally during vacation, I am going to make a conscious effort to turn off my computer, not look at my email as often and to turn off my cellphone. I am going to get out on the golf course, spend time with family, and after dinner read a book instead of turning on the television or logging into Facebook.

Enjoy your April vacation and see you back Monday, May 1st!