March 24, 2018
Should We Fear Screens?
In a TED Talk from April 2017, Sara Dewitt discusses the worrisome perceptions parents- and adults in general- have about small children using screens. With a degree in Children’s Literature and a current employee of PBS Kids, Dewitt talks about three main points of concern with children using screens.
The first fear Dewitt addresses is, “Screens are passive. They are going to keep our kids from getting up and moving.” To counteract this argument, Sara gives an example of a time when the hosts of Wild Kratts on PBS wanted to incorporate technology and all the different cameras around the studio. With cameras and screens, they brought kids in and had them act out the motion of different animals, like bats. The motion they did was picked up by the screen, and then done by the bat on the screen. There are many more screen applications and websites, where students are constantly moving. For instance, the website www.gonoodle.com is an interactive website that’s goal is to get kids up and moving while they are learning. From dances to exercises to mindfulness videos, this website has a multiple videos and channels to help students move in a variety of ways.
The second concern Sara Dewitt comments on is, “Playing games on this screen is just a waste of time. It is going to distract children from their education.” She then goes on to a tell a story of a Curious George game that was used with a group of students to work on math skills. The students then took a standardized test. But programmers wanted to focus on data analysis and student test scores. So they trained the computer to interpret the data and predict the test scores students would get. The computers were almost 100% spot on with the test results from the actual standardized test given to students. Games today are not only educational, but they are also able to collect data and track student progress. The programs Reading Eggs and Math Seeds are two different types of applications that have students pass different levels in order to move on through the game, making sure the students accomplish the necessary reading and math skills. This progress is then saved and shared with both the teacher and the parents. Screens are not just distraction time. Today, technology is advancing in ways that make screens beneficial for both student and teacher; they are fun and educational but are also able to collect and track data more efficiently than say a standardized test.
The third and final fear Dewitt brought up was, “That these screens are isolating me from my child.” She talked about a scenario where after a parent gave a tablet to her child to play a game, she received a notification with a basic sentence starter about what her child did and what to ask her about. Most education applications and websites have a whole section devoted to parents, giving them tips and advice on how to use the technology. But when it comes down to it, parents need to communicate with their child about technology in the same way they would a book or a movie. Ask the child about the game, “What do you remember? Did you have a problem? How did you solve it? Would you solve it any differently?” Technology is only isolating if it is not discussed. By talking about the game, parents are showing an interest in their child’s interest, and that gets the child excited and willing to share.
There are developmental issues and concerns about screens that were not discussed in this video. But like anything else, technology can have negative side effects if not used in moderation. But going from one extreme of not using it at all is just as bad as using it all the time. Using screens with children is all about finding a balance; the same balance was needed with all the inventions we use today. Technology is all around our children’s lives, and will continue to be. Fearing it is not going to help our children be prepared to use it in their everyday lives. Students need technology exposure when they are younger so they are able to work with and handle it when they are older and on their own.
Here is the Ted Talk Video by Sara DeWitt: