Children & technology
Mem Fox, one of Australia’s well known children’s writers has been brave enough to speak out on this extremely important issue of children and technology. We’re up to our eye balls in this stuff and I wonder, daily, what effect this is having on our souls, health, happiness and feelings of connection with others. It always saddens me when I see young children being pushed around in a stroller clutching on to an i pad or an i phone, no awareness of what is going on around them and drinking in images that are likely to be more than that little one is ready for. I make no judgement on that mother or carers choice to give the little one that device, I too am that mother.
We began by allowing our son to watch lots of television and put an i phone into his little hand way too soon, decisions that I feel no regret over, however would take an extremely different path next time round. He now attends a Rudolf Steiner school and I am thrilled that he is surrounded by nourishing rhythm’s, natural toys made of wool, wood, felt, crystals, sticks and all things we find in the beauty of nature. Media and technology is discouraged for young children within a Steiner school and I have seen first hand the benefit of limited exposure to television & media. In fact we now live in a gorgeous spot on the northern beaches where we have no reception…HURRAH!
I’m not in anyway saying that there should be no technology for children but I feel we do need to have a really good balance, to be aware of what is motivating our actions. Are we using technology to babysit our children? Is it more for us than them? Have we asked ourselves what the effect is on them and questioned the content that is so readily available?
Mem fox has been talking about the sadness of children increasingly reading books on devices and the loneliness that that could possibly bring to that child. Wouldn’t it be such a shame if children were ONLY reading books via technology, without experiencing the touch of books, the feeling of the paper, the way the illustration jumps off the page, the smell of the books. It’s all so nourishing and creates the most beautiful connection between parents and their children. I still remember the books that my mother read to me when I was little. My imagination going wild, creating layers and layers beyond what was actually in the story. These are some of my most treasured memories, that time spent with loved ones, the safety of being held in story time, the closeness and connection I felt with my mother. I see it today as she reads to my 6 year old son, again I know that these are some of his most special times with his grandmother, full of laughter and love, warmth and connection.
I’m all for less time on computers and phones, i pads and whatever else is out there. This is something that I’m working on in my life, bit by bit letting go of the need, or perhaps now for so many of us it has become a habit, of being constantly distracted, busy, and thinking we are finding relaxation in tuning out.
I want to TUNE IN!! I want to connect lovingly with myself and my family, I want to know myself and not always feel the need to be pulled out of the present and into the whirlpool of social media and technology.
Thank you Mem Fox for shining a spot light on something that is deeply affecting many generations.
It’s a tough gig being a parent, so much to consider and such a massive responsibility but also the greatest blessing, I am forever grateful. I hope we can all find nourishing ways to be in their presence and daily practices that support ourselves. This is my passion in working with mothers as a Health and Lifestyle coach, finding ways back to ourselves, feeling energized, balanced and empowered and seeing the ripple effect that is having on families and our young children. May we be healthy in all ways, mentally, physically & emotionally & inspire our children to live in wholesome rhythms!
Wishing you a beautiful day.
Keep reading below to see what Mem Fox has to say…..
Mem’s the word: Mem Fox reads to Lucinda, Claudia and Hugh Solomon and Chloe Driessen. Photo: Ben Searcy
Leading children’s author Mem Fox finds it ”heartbreaking” to see small children left alone with smartphones and tablets to entertain themselves, saying an increasing reliance on technology to teach children how to read could inhibit their empathy and social skills.
Fox said parents must keep reading books – either paper or ebooks – with their children to interpret the characters and help the child comprehend the story.
”One of the things that bothers me most is that people seem to think that kids can be left alone with technology, [but] they would be less likely to leave the child alone with a pile of books at the age of two or three,” she said.
”It is the aloneness that is heartbreaking.’
Fox said she was also sick of parents boasting about a child’s ability to use technology while ignoring the child’s concentration skills or ability to handle a book properly.
She is preparing for a national tour to promote her new book Baby Bedtime and her comments were echoed by children’s literacy and technology experts.
Fox said sales of her paper books were still strong in Australia, while royalties from ebooks suggested they were not selling at all. While Fox admits to loving technology and occasionally using it to occupy her own grandson, she feels too many parents have replaced parenting time with technology.
”Really, why do we have children if we can’t spend some time with them? It is just not right for the child. If we can’t spend time with our kids, we shouldn’t be having them.”
Apps had no beginning, middle or end, and did not describe forgiveness or courage in adversity, the author of Possum Magic and Where is the Green Sheep? said.
Emotions like empathy were only developed if adults helped children see when sad, scary or nasty things were done to characters in a book or an app, she added, citing concerns with apps such as Tom the Talking Cat, which encourages players to punch a cat.
Macquarie University lecturer in early childhood language and literacy Emilia Djonov said the real benefit of parents or teachers reading to children was the adults’ ability to encourage children to relate the story or images back to their own life. This helped children’s comprehension of what they were reading and was missing when technology took the place of an adult.
Kate Highfield, also a lecturer at Macquarie University’s institute of early childhood, said interactive books could distract children who were learning to read because the books focused on animations and sounds rather than meaning.
”While this adds some ‘fun’, it’s important that ebooks are just one small part of a child’s time with text and for this reason, we really need to ensure that children still have access to quality books and shared reading with a traditional book,” Dr Highfield said. She also warned against leaving children unsupervised with devices for more than a few minutes.
”I suggest that parents think of tablets and mobile technologies as a digital playground and, just as you wouldn’t leave your child in the park alone, we shouldn’t leave them alone in the digital park.”