A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley

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The people who are closest to a thing are often the most wary of it. Technologists know how phones really work, and many have decided they don’t want their own children anywhere near them.

A wariness that has been slowly brewing is turning into a regionwide consensus: The benefits of screens as a learning tool are overblown, and the risks for addiction and stunting development seem high. The debate in Silicon Valley now is about how much exposure to phones is O.K.

“Doing no screen time is almost easier than doing a little,” said Kristin Stecher, a former social computing researcher married to a Facebook engineer. “If my kids do get it at all, they just want it more.”

Ms. Stecher, 37, and her husband, Rushabh Doshi, researched screen time and came to a simple conclusion: they wanted almost none of it in their house. Their daughters, ages 5 and 3, have no screen time “budget,” no regular hours they are allowed to be on screens. The only time a screen can be used is during the travel portion of a long car ride (the four-hour drive to Tahoe counts) or during a plane trip.

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Three Words for Digital-Age Parents: Access, Balance, and Support

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Here’s a given about being the parent of a young child—it’s exhausting. Mix in some unknowns like your child’s seemingly unnatural attraction to glowing screens, and it can be bewildering. What’s the right mix of apps and grass stains?

Here’s another given. There is no “correct” answer, and you’re probably too busy to read a 15-page research synopsis, like the Fred Rogers/NAEYC joint position statement on use of technology with young children. (Just in case you have the time, see http://www.naeyc.org/content/technology-and-young-children.) The document addresses many of the concerns and controversies involved with raising a young child in the digital age. Full disclosure: I was one of the many advisors to the document, so I know it well. Because you have laundry to fold, let me boil down the key ideas to three words:  access, balance, and support, or ABS. Just like your car’s brake system.

How (and When) to Limit Kids’ Tech Use

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No one cares more about your child’s well-being and success than you do. In today’s digitally-fueled times, that means guiding him or her not just in the real world but in the always-on virtual one as well. Teach your children to use technology in a healthy way and pick up the skills and habits that will make them successful digital citizens. From 2-year-olds who seem to understand the iPad better than you to teenagers who need some (but not too much) freedom, we’ll walk you through how to make technology work for your family at each stage of the journey.

Kids are starting a revolution to get their parents to put down their phones

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Like many seven-year-olds, Emil Rustige gets ticked off when his parents pay attention to their phones instead of him. But unlike other kids, Emil decided to take the issue to the streets.

With the help of his parents, Rustige organized a demonstration on Sept. 8th in his hometown of Hamburg, Germany, with 150 people joining him to encourage parents to put down their phones.

The slogan for the demonstration: ”Play with ME, not with your cell phones!”

Social site terms tougher than Dickens

Chart showing reading difficulty of policies

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Children may be signing up to apps with terms and conditions that only university students can understand, BBC research reveals.

The minimum age to use apps such as YouTube and Facebook is 13.

As well as using complex language, the BBC found that reading the terms of 15 popular sites would take almost nine hours in total.

Firms could be breaching European data rules, which require them to clearly spell out how they use personal data.

Amazon unveils Alexa for kids… and there’s a lot at stake for them to get it right

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According to Buzzfeed News, Alexa will reward kids for good manners (like saying “please”).It will also temper its response to sensitive questions like “Where do babies come from?” (A: “People make people.”) and “Why are kids mean to me?” (A: “People bully, or are mean, for many different reasons. Bullying feels bad and is never OK.”)*Pause to collect yourself after picturing that heartbreaking scenario*

The implications are massive

In both scenarios above, Alexa also tells kids to talk to a trusted grown-up, but there’s no question it would play a pivotal role in the development of a child who regularly interacts with it.Whereas Facebook doesn’t have access to kids until they turn 14 (the age limit to create an FB account), Amazon will theoretically have access to kids from birth — long before they can even read or write.For kids that grow up with the device, Alexa will theoretically have a record of everything they’ve asked or listened to. And, as Amazon says on their site, “She’s always getting smarter.”

Playing Video Games With My Son Isn’t What I Thought It Would Be

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My son and I do still play those competitive games, and I hope that he’s learning about practice and perseverance when we do. But those games are about stretching and challenging him to fit the mold of the game’s demands. When we play Minecraft together, the direction of his development, and thus our relationship, is reversed: He converts the world into expressions of his own fantasies and dreams. And by letting me enter and explore those dream worlds with him, I come to understand him in a way that the games from my childhood do not.

Touring the worlds that my son has settled over the last couple of years, I find a lot of the imagery one might expect from a kid his age. Throughout are standard fantasies like living in a treehouse or on a boat. The dominant themes vary as I pass through time: trains in his earliest worlds, then robots, a long streak of pyramids. Pirate ships, particularly half-sunken ones with treasure chests, remain a constant.