Those Precious Brain Cells
Did you know your child is born with about 100 billion brain cells and that during his first three years of life these cells make trillions of connections with one another? And did you know that those very connections form the foundation of his intelligence? Yet, because of the overuse of technology, many children are not receiving adequate stimulation during the pre-adolescent years to forge these neural pathways and maintain the ones they have formed.
Simply put, if your child is engaged in regular technology use, chances are there may be some delays and possible disruption to his developmental processes. We see this statistically with 15% of children being labeled learning-disabled (including the increasing number of speech delayed children) and 30% of this generation's children predicted to be unfit for an entry level job. According to professionals like Chris A. Rowen, author of Virtual Child: The terrifying truth about what technology is doing to children, these numbers continue to rise with the deluge of technology in children's lives today.
So, what is a parent to do, you ask? With technology lurking in every corner of the modern world, with your children being specifically targeted by the "educational" software companies through corporate strings in Washington, and with the gaming industry's enormously powerful lobby navigating a world with less technology does require much effort. But there are things a parent can do to postpone the inevitable, because at some point, around the mid-teenage years (if you can hold out that long) it does become a losing battle. At least, that was my experience.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
The first action you can take is to remember that your children will not ask for technology if they don't see you using it and if they aren't around friends who are using technology. Therefore, out of sight, out of mind. Keep your children away from technology with simple steps like hosting your television and computer in your bedroom and office respectively, and by keeping yourself unplugged, as much as you can, during the time you spend with your children. As far as your home is concerned, it's really that simple.
How to Go Against the Grain
When you visit friends, let them know that you are trying to raise your children in a low-tech zone and that you prefer your children play with their children rather than plug in together. Most reasonable and caring people will respect such a request; I know my friends did. Seek out new friends who are trying to raise their children in low-tech or tech-free environments, and this along will make life much easier for you, especially as your children get older and technology becomes more of a pressing issue.
Sometimes extended family can present the biggest challenge. They may be less understanding of a family member who chooses to go against the family grain. Do your best to speak to your family, try to educate them about the harm technology causes to young children, and be proactive in organizing activities to keep the children busy when you visit. family. Invite your family to your home where you can encourage more social interaction and where low-tech house rules are in place.
One Simple Request You Can Make
A simple request you can make of others when you're promoting a low-tech world for children is to ask friends and family to consider what children do not do when they are plugged-in. Children are not outdoors engaging all five senses and their senses are growing duller, they don't use their bodies (other than to push a few buttons) and their bodies are becoming less fit, they don't interact with others and their social skills are remaining immature.
Furthermore, their minds are not actively taking in the world around them, developing their intelligence and learning new things—let them do the math! Many people will argue that video games teach children to multi-task and think faster and, while this may be true, common sense tells us that it is hardly worth the price of handicapping one's intelligence, health, and well-being for.
One last thing: you can join alliances like www.commercialfreechildhood.org and www.commonsensemedia.org both of whom are trying to protect your children from being lured into a virtual world by the technology industry. If you doubt the importance of these organizations, then consider this: 50% of teenagers today admit to being addicted to some form of technology and, if we remain on the same trajectory, these numbers can only increase. We owe it to our children and to their children to do something about it.
Elizabeth Y. Hanson teaches parents the secrets and skills to raising smarter children with a focus on getting the early years right. She is the founder of Smart Homeschooler™ and has been a consultant and researcher in children's education since 2001.
You're invited to take advantage of Elizabeth's Free 15-Minute Consultation for new clients.