Picture from Tech Savvy Dads Keep Electronics on a Leash
Even many young children are fascinated with electronic gadgets but it is important for parents to monitor the amount of time a child spends with these devices. Image ©Raúl Hernández González

Tech Savvy Dads Keep Electronics on a Leash

For many parents, handing over an electronic device is a quick way to stop a tantrum or at least entertain a child during a trip to the doctor, a stop at the grocery store or a drive home from school.

But you may be surprised to learn that Steve Jobs, the technology guru behind the iPad and iPod, strictly limited how much his children could use his company’s product at home. And according to the Inquisitr, he’s not the only parent to put a padlock on the tech toys. Wired‘s former editor Chris Anderson also keeps close tabs on the devices at home. Meanwhile other employees of Silicon Valley monster companies such as Yahoo, Hewlett-Packard, Google and Apple are choosing to send their children to a school where pens, paper and knitting needles are the learning instruments of choice according to the NY Times.

What is behind this seeming backlash from the creators of some of the world’s most impressive gadgets?

A study from the University of California Los Angeles may offer some explanation. According to the study’s author, Patricia Greenfield, critical thinking and analysis skills have declined as technology has become more prevalent. In a news release from UCLA, Greenfield said, “No one medium is good for everything. If we want to develop a variety of skills, we need a balanced media diet. Each medium has costs and benefits in terms of what skills each develops.”

While Greenfield agrees that some tasks, such as flying a plane, require the ability to multi-task, her study suggests that children who are exposed to more visual media may be missing out on the opportunity to enhance thinking, take time for reflection and engage their imaginations. The study also found that reading also enhanced vocabulary whether the child was reading on his or her own, or being read to. And despite many schools’ push to have every classroom Internet accessible, Greenfield argues that wiring classrooms does not enhance reading.

Jim Taylor, Ph.D. agrees that the effects of our new visual media are both good and bad. In a Psychology Today article, he writes “the ability of your children to learn to focus effectively and consistently lays the foundation for almost all aspects of their growth and is fundamental to their development into successful and happy people.”

He suggests that technology conditions the brain to focus on information much differently that reading does. And that can be detrimental if a child to focuses on devices to the exclusion of books and other less technical learning tools.

Helping a child grow up with a well-rounded approach to learning may mean replacing some screen time with alternative activities such as reading, imaginative play and face-to-face conversations that encourage kids to become more social and skilled at navigating the world.

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