Buy an Apple iPad for Your Child?

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1.31.10

I personally love good technology and will probably get an iPad or something like it for myself. But before bringing a new gadget home, every parent must think through its impact on the kids and family life.

Kids left to themselves consume media as they do junk food. The more the media, the poorer the grades and the lesser imaginative play and family interactions. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 1/5 of those ages eight to eighteen now get as much as nineteen hours of media daily but report more unhappiness.

I am also concerned that parent distraction by media might be damaging vital formation of youngsters’ brain circuits. I have seen mothers on their cell phones or texting while breast-feeding –surely they are not fully present with their infants at a key moment. Can such interruptions in bonding contribute to later brain-based problems, including to the recent rise autism? There can be great benefits to technology, but there are alarming trends and important unanswered questions.

I believe that parents should commit to leading their youngsters towards positive uses whatever electronic media happen to us. They should plan media consumption as they do meals, and for the long run, as they do for college. By being fully present and applying sound child-rearing and family support principles, parents can now create balanced media plans that lead youngsters to the values and orientation they will need to succeed in an increasingly technology-rich world.

An E-Reader for Kids

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1.28.10

This appears to be a promising application for kids. The positive place of technology in the lives of families and children can be indeed powerful. However, while the potential for good is enormous, in fact, so far, studies are showing that family life is actually weakening and some children’s development harmed by unsupervised or excessive use of media, and things are getting worse.

Too many parents are gee-whizzing the wonders of technology, reacting to children’s demands and adopting every new gizmo that comes along, or feeling inadequate or overwhelmed and unable to provide the right balance for their families. To actually benefit from digital media, parents must become confident, pro-active and take charge, get involved, and make thoughtful and deliberate ongoing  commitments to media planning in their home for both the short and long terms.

I suggest parents participate together with their preschoolers in interacting with this device. Make it a family affair. Limit access only to times when you or an older sibling can join the child. Kids learn best in social situations, anyway. Most importantly, develop for your family a media plan to include this device to prevent the later isolated or out of control use of media by children.

APPLE TABLET: The New York Times, The Huffington Post, News Blaze, Slate

The New York Times

The Huffington Post

News Blaze

Slate

1.27.2010

APPLE TABLET: Does America’s Youth Need Yet Another Great Tech Device?

1/5 of kids 8-18 spend up to 19 hrs/d (including texting and multitasking) total media time. Media use is associated with poorer grades and family life and less reading and imaginative play. When parents set limits for 1/3 of youngsters, media consumption drops by only 1/3, showing that restriction is just not enough.

Technology is great  — we need to use it in positive, proactive family-centered applications. But in the 10+ years of media explosion into the lives of younger and younger children, there has been little systematic effort to guide parents about their best use.

My advice: Parent have home court advantage, but there is no quick fix. Their commitment must be big, and they need good expert help. Parents should plan kids’ media use just like they plan meals for healthy nutrition. Start early and work at it as part of daily parenting. A Media Plan must be based on sound child development and family health principles and must help families succeed as their kids brains are wired actively during early childhood. It must prevent improper chaotic use in the teen years before it starts.

Does America’s youth need another great tech device? Yes and no, depending how it is used, and parents must be in charge.

Oprah: Texting While Driving Is ‘Absolutely Stupid’

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1.26.2010

Texting and using cell phone while driving cause so many traffic accidents that they are now banned in many places. And who even heard of texting five years ago? This is yet another example of how we are playing catch-up to the explosive changes wrought by technology in our lives.

But the impact of technology on our kids and families has been just as explosive and can be just as destructive as traffic accidents, and also requires severe measures. And is playing catch-up a good idea?

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows that older children are using media up to 19 hours a day. Only 1/3 of parents set limits, and when they do, media use drops by only 1/3. Not much! Family life and grades are down. So kids and media companies are pretty much in charge. Left to themselves, kids usually consume junk. Is this what parents want?

Media can be great for kids if used right. Make media plans like you do meal plans. Parent commitment must be big and they need good expert help. There is no quick fix. Start early and work at it as part of daily parenting. Parents have the home court advantage and they must commit themselves, as they do to a nutrition plan, retirement plan, plan to make the family and marriage work.

Ten for ’10: New Gadgets for Home and Away

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1.7.10

A big ‘Wow!’

I never cease to feel amazed by the awesome flood of beauty, talent, and innovation that these devices represent. We are blessed to live in our free and peaceful (not perfect, though, by any means) country and be able to participate in a resilient and powerful economic system that nurtures inventiveness and talent. We are doing lots right here in a way no other people ever have in all of history.

Having said that, I also never forget the findings of modern neuroscience: These technologies are created by our wonderful human minds, and are but secondary to the primary purpose for which our brains evolved — to make the enormously complex calculations required to live together and know each other in so many ways as social creatures. So — paradoxically, in a long term biological sense, our technological inventiveness is a happy side benefit of the brain sophistication we require to be social beings.

The development of each of our minds and brains is itself even more miraculous than any gadget we can ever come up with (an even bigger ‘Wow!’), and we must be careful to keep these precious environments ‘green’. In the long run, I believe that we have a responsibility to be thoughtful and systematic in applying these inventions as tools to benefit our human condition. Each of us can do that by tending carefully to our own personal and family lives. I believe that we can be more proactive in how we think about and how we use these devices in our homes — especially how we expose our children to them. Currently, we seem to place these devices into children’s hands with only, at best,  a passing nod to the ultimate good or harm they may cause in the long run (which we have yet to really know — although we know lots about what is good for kids and families.)

I have no doubt that there will be long term consequences to all of this  — so let’s be more thoughtful and clever about raising our digital kids more carefully and present them with nutritious technological diets rather than letting them consume junk unsupervised.

CES 2010: The Circus Begins (And Gadgets Galore!)

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1.7.10

I love gadgets and usually meet them with a big ‘Wow! We are blessed to live in our free and peaceful (not perfect, though, by any means) country and be able to participate in a resilient and powerful economic system that nurtures inventiveness and talent.

These technologies are created by our wonderful human minds, and are but secondary to the primary purpose for which our brains evolved – to make the enormously complex calculations required to live together and know each other in so many ways as social creatures. So — paradoxically, in a long term biological sense, our technological inventiveness is a happy side benefit of the brain sophistication we require to be social beings.

The development of each of our minds and brains is itself even more miraculous than any gadget we can ever come up with (an even bigger ‘Wow!’), and we must be careful to keep these precious environments ‘green’. I believe that we can be more proactive in how we think about and how we use these devices in our homes – especially how we expose our children to them.

So let’s be more thoughtful and clever about raising our digital kids more carefully and present them with nutritious technological diets rather than letting them consume junk unsupervised. (Dr. S is a child psychiatrist and the author of KIDS, PARENTS & TECHNOLOGY: A GUIDE FOR YOUNG FAMILIES.

It’s Not too Late to Set Intentions for 2010

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1.10.10

Here’s a NEW YEAR’S resolution for parents: I will take charge of my kids’ digital media activities to make them into safe assets for development and family life. I want to keep their minds and brains ‘green’. This will take an ongoing commitment, just like dieting or working on a marriage.

The Huffington Post: Kids and Media: Joined at the Hip and The Wall Street Journal: A Safer Way to Text on the Road and MIT Review: Ban Texting While Parenting

The Huffington Post: Kids and Media: Joined at the Hip

The Wall Street Journal: A Safer Way to Text on the Road

MIT Review: Ban Texting While Parenting

1.24.2010

Texting and using cell phone while driving cause so many traffic accidents that they are now banned in many places. And who even heard of texting five years ago? This is yet another example of how we are reacting to the explosive changes wrought by technology in our lives. But the impact of technology on our kids and families has been just as explosive and can be just as destructive as traffic accidents, and also requires severe measures. We can’t just make laws and rules. Restriction and quick fixes won’t work. Parents of young kids need to start thinking early and plan for the long-term.

A recently released Kaiser Family Foundation study shows that older children are engaged with the media as much as eight hours a day; only 1/3 of families limit media; but even when parents do set rules, media consumption by kids drops by only 1/3.

The problem is big.
The Kaiser Foundation Study shows how big the problem is: 21% of kids 8-18 are “heavy users” who use media, including texting and multi-tasking, up to 19 hours daily (including multitasking and texting). Family life and grades are down. So kids and media companies are pretty much in charge. Left to themselves, kids usually consume junk. Is this what parents want?

The solution must be big.
Media can be great for kids if used right. Only 1/3 of parents set limits, and when they do, media use drops by only 15 hrs/w. Not much! Setting limits does not work enough!! Parents need help big-time! Parents need a proactive, comprehensive Media Plan. A Media Plan must be comprehensive and based on sound child development and family health principles. It must help families succeed as their kids brains are wired actively during early childhood. It must prevent improper chaotic use in the teen years before it starts. It should translate into practical daily media menus. That is why I wrote my book.

Parent commitment must be big and they need good expert help.
There is no quick fix. Start early and work at it as part of daily parenting. Parents have the home court advantage and they must commit themselves, as they do to a nutrition plan, retirement plan, plan to make the family and marriage work.