Friday, October 21st, 2011
By now you’ve read that the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued updated guidelines on media use for kids – and you’ve digested the rationale for the suggestions made. Most of the conversation has focused on TV/DVDs. The guidelines are realistic and straightforward. My guess is that most parents won’t have a problem following them – because they will be more preoccupied with their phone and laptop.
Sometimes as a researcher you feel like you are always chasing the new reality. And the new reality with technology is that it is transportable. Which means that technology can interfere with parenting anytime and anywhere. Anywhere in the house (not just in front of the TV). In the yard. Out pushing a stroller. In the car. Anytime at all. And I don’t have much in the way of research data to share with you to provide guidelines about that because it’s still a relatively new phenomenon.
So as parents consider the new guidelines about media use, some hard choices are going to have to be made. Will you limit your phone time? Even after you just loaded all those new apps about babies? Will you even realize how many times a day you might be distracted by the phone when you are with your baby? What about your laptop? Or any other transportable electronic device you favor?
How young will your baby be when you hand over your phone for the first time? Will you think it’s cool when baby seems to know what to do with it? Will you download apps for your toddler? Will you convince yourself that they are educational?
These are unanswered questions that a new generation of parents are answering for themselves. I certainly believe that transportable technology is a part of modern life, and I don’t think that’s bad. I also favor the idea that technology is going to be a part of a toddler’s life. But it’s important to keep in mind how to balance it – for parents as well as kids. And it’s essential to convince parents that if they want to promote kids’ brain development – if you want to give your kid a head start, heck even an edge – you need to play with them and let them use their instincts to explore their physical and social world. You need to talk to them and read to them as they get older. We all just have to figure out how we are going to find systematic and realistic ways to disconnect from the world of technology for parts of our day and parts of our night to achieve all this.
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