Waging War on our Children: How our children are becoming the casualties of the high-tech pursuit of marketshare

The New York Times recently reported that many technology executives PAY EXTRA to send their kids to schools that don't have any screens - NONE!  As one  person in the article is quoted as saying, "it is a distraction" and goes on to say that kids can learn how to use technology at any time.  But for learning critical thinking and socialization skills, it's best NOT to use technology.  And instead, build direct relationships with others and the world.

 

In the meantime, researchers continue to fall short on finding good theoretical foundations or rigorous experimentation on which to build a case for enhancing learning through technology.  The New York Times also ran a damming report about how even university ventures, such as Cognitive Tutor, released by Carnegie Mellon, shows no significant impact on student learning.  However the school and the software's founders were paid millions for their 'innovation'.  In the same report, Intel admits that there is no evidence that any of this technology has any positive impact on children.

 

But technology executives, managers, sales people, etc - the very same people who hawk these products and eat up valuable resources taken from struggling schools by shoving educational technology down the throats of administrators who actually trust what they say, pay a premium, a premium, to send their kids to 'old fashioned' schools where kids have encyclopedias, read real books and use chalk boards.  THEY pay EXTRA for that.

 

Many of you know I have been talking about these kinds of issues for many years.  I work with world-renown neuroscientists and psychologists who see the negative influence of "screen life" on little ones' brains and well-being.  Trusted pediatricians continue to warn against too much time in front of screens for young children.  But do we really take any of this seriously?  Just yesterday a new report showed that children are in front of screens more than ever before.

 

At some point we must decide as a society that our children should not be casualties of a giant marketing war to get the greatest share of market.  While technology can enable many wonderful things, including helping handicapped children to find a voice in a world where they may not have had any, in general, not only is there no evidence that backs up the tech company claims about educational technology in general, but there is evidence to the contrary, that screen life and more exposure to this has negative and long-lasting effects among the youngest and most helpless among us - the children.

 

So when do we begin to say that exposing our children to too many screens, whether at home or in school, is not right, should not be legal, or perhaps, may even be abusive.  How much science do we need to know - really know that kids who spend too much time with screens instead of humans not only do not benefit but could be harmed.

 

We know that Virtual Distance exists in adults.  It's likely that some variant form of virtual distance builds up in children as well.  But at the same time that Virtual Distance may be taking hold, so too are children's emotions and brains forming, taking all of this in and weaving the effects, whatever they may be, into the fabric of who they become as adults.

 

At the very least we need to call for a moritorium on technology in the classroom for pre-K through 6th graders at least.  Their brains and emotional stability are still forming and it is during this time that kid's relationships with others matter most in terms of developing social and emotional well being that will carry them forward.

 

There is an old saying, "Do as I do, not as I say".  The technology execs want you to do as they say, not as they do.  And who could afford it?  How do they look themselves in the mirror when they hawk technological gismos to schools to create some fantastical learning nirvana when, in fact, given their vast resources, they wouldn't send their own children to those same schools.   It is not right. 

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Comment by Community Director on October 31, 2011 at 1:52pm
I am wondering how this approach taken in the classroom translates into their lives at home. As professionals do they ignore urgent emails that buzz on their iPhones during a soccer match? Do they not allow play dates with children who are allowed limited access to a Wii or a DS? Balance is not always easy to achieve in life as we all know and I am curious as to how they achieve balance when the school day at a Waldorf School comes to a close.

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