The problem with a media free household
As a regular reader of tech blogs and parenting sites, I frequently come across the strongly-held views of the "no-tech parent". These are moms and dads that have decided that nothing good can come from their kids spending hours playing "mindless" video games or surfing the web.
Here's a comment on the recent Kaiser Family Foundation study that was posted on the web site of regional TV station:
"I find it mind-boggling that parents could expose their children to various forms of media for nearly 8 hours a day. I go to friends' houses and family gatherings and I see these pasty-faced kids glued to their iPhones and gaming devices, not talking with adults or each other as they frantically hammer away at the controls. My husband and I have taken a conscious decision to ban all such devices from our own house. Despite the occasionally complaint, my kids are healthy, happy and excellent conversationalists. I only wish more parents would follow our lead."
The writer doesn't say what age her kids are. Perhaps they are tweens – tech-savvy enough to know what they're missing but young enough that the "occasional complaint" hasn't turned into outright rebellion.
Despite my misgivings about this parent's approach, part of me is a little jealous. Think about those wonderful screen-free days, where you don't have to worry about parental controls or what inappropriate video they just downloaded from iTunes.
But then reality creeps in. What does your child say when all her friends are on Club Penguin? What happens at school when it's time for computer lab and he's so far behind everyone else? What do you tell them when they are the only ones at camp without an iPod?
That's the problem with the media-free household. You may be able to maintain the no-tech bubble within the walls of your own home but, unless you home school and cancel all outside activities, the bubble will burst by the time they reach 4th grade.
I suspect our mom from the TV web site is beginning to realize the limitations of her no-tech zone. Her plaintive hope that more parents follow her lead suggests that her go-it-alone approach is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.
Trying to shield children from technology is a bit like keeping them away from water. Sure, you may be able to prevent accidents when they're young, but at some stage they are going to have to learn how to swim. By all means restrict the amount of time they spend with screens and gadgets, but a complete ban will end up doing more harm than good.
How do you feel about a no-tech policy for younger kids? Does it help or hinder their development? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!