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The Greatest Technological Challenge: Weaning Kids Off of It

December 20, 2016

There is a downside to personal-device technology.

Exposure to electronic devices can impede development. The longer I teach, the more exposure my incoming classes of students have had to being babysat using electronic devices.

The result is that they have increasingly more difficulty doing life without the constant presence of a wireless crutch.

Consider this excerpt from a September 2016 article in Gulf News, entitled, “We’re Turning Children Into Cyber Babies”:

Somewhere along the line, a misinterpretation of neuroscience has led parents to believe that all stimulation for a child is good. Even if these devices in themselves are not proven to be harmful, there is significant harm simply in the lack of time spent doing things in the real world that are known to be important for development.

It has been shown repeatedly that at least 60 minutes a day of unstructured play — when children entertain themselves, either alone or with another child and without adult or technological interference — is essential. This is when a child uses imagination and creativity, when he or she practises decision-making and problem-solving, develops early maths concepts, fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

In Britain, an escalation of problems associated with tablet use among pre-school children has been reported by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. These include developmental delays in attention span, motor skills and dexterity, speaking and socialisation — as well as an increase in aggressive and antisocial behaviour, obesity and tiredness. A growing number of young children are beginning school without enough dexterity to pick up and play with building blocks.

One gathering of teachers in Manchester called for help with “tablet addiction.” A teacher in Northern Ireland described pupils who were allowed to play computer games excessively before bed arriving in class the next day with what you might call a “digital hangover,” and attention spans “so limited that they might as well not be there.”

Jo Heywood, headmistress of a private primary school in Ascot, Berkshire, has been outspoken about her observation that children are starting school at five and six years old with the communication skills of two and three-year-olds, presumably because their parents or carers have been “pacifying” them with iPads rather than talking to them. This is seen in children from all social backgrounds.

PJ Media, which cites part of the above Gulf News excerpt in its own piece, entitled, “British Teachers Call for Help Battling Tablet Addiction among Preschoolers,” adds:

Good intentions can have damning consequences. What you thought was a guaranteed way to get your kid ahead of the educational curve might wind up being the reason he’s falling behind in school.

One of the battles I fight constantly as a teacher is my students’ addiction to their phones. Cyberlife is so alluring, a ceaseless siren call of images, sound bytes and conversation bits that mimics living but is actually little more than casino-styled, 24-hour social interaction and entertainment.

Living in the moment becomes displaced by living on the iPhone.

Several years ago, one of my high school students confessed to me that she knew she was addicted to her phone. She was uncomfortable in the moment, being fully present, because she had grown accustomed to that never-ending, cyberworld distraction.

When she didn’t have her phone, she was consumed by its absence. Nothing to slip out of her pocket and repeatedly check.

The current technological challenge for classroom teachers is not teaching students how to use technology. It’s weening kids off of phones and other such personalized technology long enough for them to learn to interact with a world that is not accessed by swiping a touch screen or typing with their thumbs.



Released July 2016– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. Sarah Waters permalink

    Wean not ween

  2. But what can we do? As one teacher at our school said, “It’s like playing whack-a-mole. After I tell one student to put away a phone, another gets his out.” Our administrators, according to district policy, can’t take away phones unless there is a huge issue.

    Last year during PARCC testing, I collected all phones as kids walked in the testing room. I saw a student on his second phone AFTER testing started.


    • Christine Langhoff permalink

      Taking away phones – a reason to like PARCC!

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