Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The ongoing conundrum of kids and technology.

Sure, she can use a laptop, but is her brain really empty?
My kids are technological wizards.  They are consummate users of ipods, ipads, iphones, our laptop and Apple tv.  New technology doesn't phase them in the slightest.   They are bloody lucky kids who want for nothing.

At school they've gone beyond having a computer room they visit each week to having computers in each classroom and using them daily.  They have iPads to share between classes with amazing educational apps on them.  And of course, smart boards, where teachers can Google anything they like, any time they like and allow their charges to zoom around the internet, following leads and 'searching up' (as they call it), whatever takes their fancy.

It happens at home too.  In the last few days we (mainly they) have 'searched up' wind farms, sustainable forestry, Frankenstein, Frankenstein's monster, orcs, trolls and obsidian.  Oh, and How Animals Eat Their Food (it's really funny).

Mine are certainly exposed to technology a great deal, probably because I love it and have more gadgets than I should and I'm always on them.  Like now.  I'm a sucker for a new app, I love social media and as a freelancer, have to be my own IT help desk.  Oh, and I write a blog.

A selection of devices at chez Christensen.  Too much yes?  + 1 cause my iphone took the photo.  
At home we have a no screen rule during the week (no Wii, TV, iPods) but they can do Mathletics and use the laptop for project research.  Playing Wii is allowed when friends are over.

Can I just say this rule is bent sometimes.  Please don't judge me.

I do believe free, imaginative, non screen play is better for kids than oodles of screen time.  Like, der.

But I also see the benefits of being able to do their own research, being confident in front of a computer, even the social benefits of talking about it at school.  Like everything, it's about balance, and the balance is always being adjusted.

A friend of mine told me that her son, normally an above average student across the board, received a poor mark in computers.  It was his first below average mark ever.  Caused, she believes from her (very reasonable) habit of not letting him play on the computer at home.  She sends him into the garden to play instead.

Never did I ever think that allowing a kid to free range play instead of staring at a screen would be the cause of a poor mark.  But my mate is wondering if her boy's limited access to screen time has caused him to fall behind his classmates in computer work.

So are we doing kids an injustice if we don't let them use the computer?  Surely not?  Surely it's better to run around in the garden than watch How Animals Eat Their Food.  Although it's pretty funny.

I know I have some serious decisions to make as Sarah gets older.  She's already allowed to have limited access to Kik (a message forum they can use with their ipods) but she doesn't seem to seek that sort of online interaction very often (yet?).  And, I'm firmly in the school of thought that says 'no devices in bedrooms'.

Part of me would like to make a rule that says no devices allowed upstairs (when we have an upstairs).  Except the other part of me is the part that reads books and newspapers on my iPad in bed, so I'm already flaunting the no device in bedroom rule.  And I'm not stopping either.  It's too far too convenient and backlit to boot.

But this provides a conundrum, as they get older they will study in their room, not at the kitchen bench and they'll need access to websites for research etc.  Which will also give them access to Facebook (or whatever site they will want to socialise on in a few years time - it won't be Facebook I'm sure), and possible cyber bullying, and late night messaging and, and, and...

And soon, they'll surpass me in my knowledge of technology and the latest, best device and I won't be able to keep as close eye on them.  And if they're determined, they'll be able to get around passwords and parental locks.

I know another kid whose Dad pays him $5 if he can break the parental lock on the PC in under 5 minutes.  He's 15.  And he always does it.

This sounds like the Josh of the future.  The future scares me.

I'm afraid in regard to the technological conundrum, I have no answers, only questions.  Sorry.

PS.  Issy is home sick today and after a morning of chores, shopping and doctors appointments, she has opted to watch ABC iview on the ipad rather than plain old TV as it gives her total control over her viewing.  She flips seamlessly from Peppa Pig, to Mr Maker and on to an episode of my personal favourite, Play School.  She is 6, and totally tech savvy.

PPS.  The presenters on Play School are now absurdly young?  Yes?