Left to their own devices?

I was selected to be part of a moms vs dads “blog-off” where five mom-bloggers and five dad-bloggers were paired off and given their own topics to write about for the “competition”. This is my entry. Topic: A child’s use of technology – your thoughts on children using gadgets like mobile phones and tablets, watching television etc. Does it stump their creativity, or inspire it? Brain-cell killers, or vital educational tools? Can there be too much or too little use of such things?

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When I was a kid growing up in the 70s and 80s we had video games (Atari anyone?), MTV, VCRs, personal computers with, gasp, games! We had hand held games of baseball and football and soccer in the latest LED lights and sounds. Yet, somehow, it didn’t stifle my generation’s creativity one bit. Perhaps our childhood fascination with technology inspired some to get involved in creating today’s laptops and iPads and iPhones and androids and apps and digital cameras. The art, film, music and theater industries all seem to be doing as well as ever – if not better than ever – under the direction of my generation and those that have followed. But with so much technology available to my generation it appears our brains weren’t ruined after all. This leads me to consider the question in regards to the children of today. Is technology ruining them, their brain cells and their creativity?

No. I don’t think that kids’ use of technology is killing off their brain cells one bit. I would argue that it’s having the opposite effect. There is a plethora of information and inspiration literally at their fingertips. My oldest daughter, who turns 19 this month, watched plenty of TV and videos as a child and got her own cell phone and laptop while in high school. Yet, she is one of the most creative people I know. She’s a singer/songwriter and artist. She’s composed dozens of songs and created many pieces on canvas and out of clay. One of my other kids created a trebuchet type of device using the contents of the bin of recycling and some tape. We all have iPods and/or iPhones and use them daily. While there are negative aspects to the use of technology (lack of interpersonal skills, obesity, wasted time spent watching YouTube “cat” videos, etc.) I’ve seen it enhance the lives of my children for the better. I don’t think they’re any less creative than my generation. Sure, the creativity of young people today is different than it was in generations past, but that doesn’t make it worse. Some of the things that young people create using technology are astonishing. It’s splattered all over the internet. For example, just this last week I found this video of a trombone player who used his laptop to record a cover of the pop song “Happy”. This guy’s marvelous technology-enabled performance is incredible for an old fart like me who grew up using computers the size of a small dorm fridge and floppy disks that were 5 1/4″ just to “create” a code to make a “turtle” draw rudimentary lines to try to form pictures.

Ultimately, though, it comes down to parenting with some limits and boundaries. When our kids were very young we tried to limit their screen time (including all iPods, laptops, TVs or DVD players) and gradually allowed it to increase as they got older and matured. I’m amazed at how much they enjoy using the technology. In fact, when my wife got her iPhone two years ago it was our then 20 month-old who taught her how to use the buttons on the side to adjust the volume. It would be easy to let the iPod or computer or TV be a babysitter. But that’s not healthy. It’s all about moderation. Technology can be used to enhance their learning and spark their interest in the world around them provided we show them reasonable limits.

My kids, while not always thrilled about it, understand those boundaries and enjoy being active more than being left to their own “devices”. Now that the weather is getting nicer I find them spending more and more time outside, playing and exploring the real world “hands free”. Using their eyes and ears and other senses instead of an iPod or computer. So, go. Get out of here and do some real living and exploring with your kids. But don’t forget to bring your iPhone so that you can document what they’re doing!

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2 thoughts on “Left to their own devices?

  1. Thank you for this perspective. Technology is often held up as the boogey-man–I think sometimes it’s just as easy excuse. You are right; kids’ creativity can bloom regardless–moderation is the key.
    I might have to borrow a 20-month-old to help me if I ever get an iPhone, too–I’m a little behind. 🙂

    Like

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