Monday, March 11, 2013

Published 8:25 AM by with 1 comment

Do Children Have Too Much Access to Technology?

While my guitar students attend their lessons, the parents sit in the room most of the time, and often a sibling or two will also join us. The family watches the lesson while sitting in chairs against the wall as the students learn in front of them. Within the past few years, I've seen a new trend emerge: the majority of my students' siblings who come to their lessons, when they are not doing homework, are on their parents' (or their own) smart phones or a hand-held gaming device.

At first it was few and far between. But then EVERYONE started using them. The older ones use their personal smartphone to browse the web or check Facebook constantly or text their friends, even if their friends are sitting right next to them. I have even had problems with my teenage students attempting to check their phones surreptitiously behind their guitars during class!

The younger children play games on phones, sometimes for half an hour straight without looking up, or watch videos with headphones. Children as young as three or four demand their parent's phone as soon as they sit down at the guitar lesson. The phone is passed over and the child quickly clicks away to Angry Birds. I see this happen almost every day that I teach.

The occasional child will be working on a math sheet or writing out spelling words while their older brother or sister plucks away at "When the Saints Go Marching In". There are a few younger siblings who do stay attentive in the lesson; those are the children who usually end up starting guitar lessons as well, after their elder sibling has played for a few years. We also keep a shelf of books and magazines, a chalkboard and whiteboard to draw on, and a box of toys in the waiting room, which children are welcome to play with as they wait for the teacher to bring them back for their lesson.

Before you think that I am condemning anyone, let me say this: sometimes nothing will keep a child's attention except the instant gratification of a video screen. As the parent of a child who loves the colorful, fast-moving images of television at eight months old already, I do understand that there will be times when you just need your kid to PLEAAAASE be quiet and still for a little while! Perhaps the child may play on their parent's phone for twenty minutes at their sibling's lesson, then go home and play outside for two hours. I only see one tiny slice of a family's life during their busy week. So I'm not saying that parents are awful for allowing their child to use technology. Just in case anyone thought I was judging : )

I'm not about to forbid all electronics from my home either. If you deny a child something completely, then they often become entranced with it as the forbidden fruit, so instead we want to teach moderation and wisdom. We have a television, a computer, an iPad, an iPod, a radio, and cell phones in our home (no smart phones, just the basic call and text phone without internet). We all enjoy time to veg out in front of a good movie or listen to a TED talk online or browse the news on Google. I can chat with friends all over the world via Skype. Email and this blog connect me with lovely readers and writers and dreamers. Technology does great and wonderful things in our world today.

But Chris and I are making new efforts to use technology sparingly, so that our children will learn that while electronic devices are useful and fun, they don't need to be the focal point of our existence. We can go outside in nature. We can have conversations. We can go to a concert. We can play board games. We can meet a friend at the park. We can cook or play music on our instruments or dance or draw or read a book or play hide and seek or juggle... there are many fun things to do!

We all want balance in our lives. That is what we hope, and aspire, to achieve. We're not perfect, and technology is not evil, but perhaps if we look up more from the screen, then we will see more of real life.

What do you think? Do children have too much access to technology? 

Let me know what you think! I'd love to hear other responses!

Here is part two of "do children have too much access to technology".

Always be willing to rethink!

This post is part of the "Questions for You!" series.



Anonymous said...

Yes. I definitely think they have too much access and it affects them later on as well. We need to teach a balance. My husband struggles with the young adults that work for him constantly having one eye on their phones to check messages and the like. It is electrical work, so you can imagine that it is really disruptive to a work environment. I think all of us are too connected in that way and that we should wait until much later to introduce technology to children to use. Another good question.