Screen-Free Week 2013

Well, it’s here again, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s Screen-Free Week has arrived & I’m gearing up to power down.

I need it this year.

I’ve been too distracted, too obsessed with my smart phone, when I’m with T. Checking Facebook. Checking email. Checking message boards. Checking blogs (including my own).

Time for a break!

I can’t wait, actually.

During my commute, I’ll read. At work, I’ll work (duh, but even so… the distractions seep into all aspects of life). Before bed, I’ll read something on paper.

Most importantly, when I walk through the door after work, I will focus totally on being home. Playing with T, connecting with MFA Dad, cooking, brushing my teeth… Whatever it is, I want to do it without distraction.

And when I’m home, no screens for T. Including next weekend. (Hopefully the weather will cooperate so T’s not house-bound, with all that entails.)

Like I said already, I can’t wait. Seriously. I need some detox.

I won’t be perfect. Dear, no! There’s no such thing as perfect.

If T’s watching Bob the Builder when I get home from work, I’ll join him. If we want to look up a bird, I’ll try to remember to use a book, but I might instinctively reach for my phone. MFA Dad & I will probably watch Mad Men on Netflix.

You get the idea.

So take the following with a grain of salt & know I write it without judgment.

See, I recently (& timely) read Hanna Rosin’s recent article from The Atlantic, “The Touch-Screen Generation” & I think it’s total hogwash.

What starts as a critical look at the use of touch-screens by toddlers ends up being just a rationalization for why giving iPads to preschoolers is ok.

Tellingly, Ms. Rosin reports that at a conference for developers of children’s apps, many of the developers she spoke to set strict limits on their own children’s use of touch-screen technology. She continues by reporting on the state of the research on children’s (particularly toddlers’) use of touch-screen technology. … Basically we have no idea what touch-screen technology does to our children’s brains (as I’ve written before … and Ms. Rosin ignores the research that is a bit more damning of our preschoolers’ use of touch-screens).

But Ms. Rosin doesn’t stop there. She ends by focusing not on the effects of this new technology on our children’s well-being, but on what kids really want from touch-screen games.

She discusses one particular company developing apps for the toddler set, arguing that the open-ended play their games encourage are just what kids young children need from an app. Moreover, she thinks that these sorts of apps (specifically apps by Toca Boca… the article is virtually an ad for this particular game developer) are simply fun for preschoolers.

But Ms. Rosin doesn’t convince me that any of it is good. To the contrary, her argument is based on anecdotes & her own family’s experience.

I agree that a game that encourages free play is better than a game that merely advertises to our children. But I’m still not sure it’s worth my $0.99 at the iTunes Store or worth T’s time. (Though maybe it’d be better than another episode of Thomas? A discussion for another day…)

There’s clearly no avoiding touch-screen technology. To ignore it & our children’s interactions with it is naïve. Eventually, they will need to become literate in this technology.

A researcher quoted in the article suggests it’s unrealistic to try to protect our children from media, even at young ages. The researcher’s take is that we need to “take advantage” of what new technologies can offer our children.

I don’t know. Television has been around for a long time now & the research is pretty clear that it does nothing for our kids. So just because the technology exists doesn’t mean that young children need to know how to navigate that technology. Just because it exists doesn’t mean there’s some advantage to be had for our preschoolers if we can only figure out how.

Ms. Rosin’s overall point (I think) hits the nail on the head: Why kid ourselves. These apps aren’t “educational”. At best, they’re fun, a welcome distraction.

Because trust me, I was relieved when my sister-in-law whipped out an iPhone app for my son & nephew when we were all at a restaurant a couple weeks ago. (I don’t have any children’s apps on my phone, something I sometimes regret, especially at restaurants…)

That’s it. A moment of quiet.

That’s what we get from all these new (experimental) fun & educational apps. Let’s not kid ourselves or rationalize.

So please join me (& many, many others) this week & tune out. It’ll be fun! It’ll be a challenge! It’ll be… something!

I’ll be back next week to let you know how it went. And please leave a comment with your own successes & challenges!

Happy Screen-Free Week!

P.S. Traveling? Travel is possible screen-free. Ideas here.

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2 Comments

Filed under Living, Mothering, Parenting, Screens, Simplicity, Working

2 responses to “Screen-Free Week 2013

  1. Pingback: Should apps for babies be marketed as educational? | Mom, JD

  2. Pingback: iPad vs. child | Mom, JD

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