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Too Much Tech: The Effects of Tech Culture on Families

06.08.10 Too Much Tech: The Effects of Tech Culture on Families

This article really caught my eye.  Especially the two parents, with a meal on the table, using their ipads.  I shuddered a bit, because, well, I write a lot from the kitchen table. Mostly when the girls are asleep, but sometimes not.  I try to fastforward in my mind to when the girls are tween and teens, wanting to put their computers or iphones on the dinner table, and me saying, we don't do that.  Then they would say those dreaded words, "But you do it!"

So I usually keep my computer AWAY from the dinner table, and try not to be on it at all when they are awake. But it is hard.  

This article from today's New York Times describes why it is so hard for us.  It is addicting, truly, and sends a chemical to our brain that we like, and brings us some immediate joy or gratification.  I can see this. Especially when I have publishers considering books and articles.  Sometimes, after reading Pooh stories for about an hour, I itch for communication with the outside world.  For some news--be it from a friend, colleague, or publisher.  To feel like I matter, outside my domestic life.  

Then I think about my students.  As a teacher, I can usually tell who has been brought up with lots of screen time.  It is usually those who have trouble with executive functioning, the ability to prioritize and organize tasks in their daily lives.  Also, proficient readers are less likely to have been given acess to loads of screen time. These are my anecdotal observations from 10 years of teaching.  

I worry that our generation, parents now and their chidren, will never actually be present in the moment-- for a sunset, a meaningful moment, a realization, without having to communicate about it immediately.  Unplugged used to just mean from the TV.  Now it means so much more-- uplugged from ipods, computers, ipads, video games.  

The impact on family time is profound: 

"Lily, a second-grader, is allowed only an hour a day of unstructured time, which she often spends with her devices. The laptop can consume her.

“When she’s on it, you can holler her name all day and she won’t hear,” Mrs. Campbell said.

Researchers worry that constant digital stimulation like this creates attention problems for children with brains that are still developing, who already struggle to set priorities and resist impulses."

An hour of unstructured play time, and she is on the computer?  What about going outside?  

And the teenager struggles with attention while studying.  Why? Because his screens are calling him-- friends on Facebook, Twitter, texts from his girlfriend. I fully believe that if I was a teenager now, and if I had access to all this media, I would have fallen right into it and maybe not emerged to focus on schooling (which was hard enough without those distractions).  

So.  I am left with the thought to unplug myself.  At least once a week, at night.  And to make sure the girls see a role model that lives in the moment.  Now, where did I put that novel?


image:  by toettoet on Flickr under Creative Commons

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