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Digital Technology is Here to Stay

by Steve Maas
Thursday, December 12, 2019

Over the years, we have hosted several discussions on the topic of child development and digital technology. I continue to be interested in the topic and have recently read books by Nir Eyal and Anya Kamenetz. Kamenetz, in her book, The Art of Screen Time, How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media & Real Life, mentions differential susceptibility. Or, dandelions versus orchids. Most children, like dandelions, are hardy, resilient, and do well in a wide variety of situations. Some children, like orchids, are more susceptible to harmful effects without close supervision. That being said, I think it is smart to notice what is being missed when large amounts of time are spent alone looking at screens. Kamenetz also points out that all screens are not created equal. Facetime with grandma is not the same as whatever educational app they use or watching another episode of Peppa Pig. My key takeaway from Kamenetz’s book is: enjoy screens; not too much; mostly with others. 

Indistractable; How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, is a book by Nir Eyal that discusses our actions being either traction toward or distraction from what we really want. We can think about what we truly want to happen in our days, weeks, and years of our lives and then decide if our actions are helping or hindering our goals. Even young children can begin to have conversations about how and when to best use digital technology. If children are involved in setting priorities, they can learn to make time for what is important to them and how to avoid distraction.

Maria Montessori believed that learning happens through observation. Our children learn how to use digital media by watching how we use it. I am trying to make more time in my life for traction toward the things I value and hope my children, both adults now, still learn a bit by watching the old man. 

Last year, Lisa Thauvette, TCH parent, moderated two round table discussions about children and digital technology with our school community and has since written an article on the topic. If you’d like to gather as a group and discuss this further, let me know. I think it would be time well spent.