Dr. Screen-Free Mom http://www.screenfreeparenting.com/author/screen-free-mom/
So what’s a Concerned Parent to do?
I recently participated in a panel discussion on technology and kids following a screening of Screenagers at a local school’s education night. The panel then answered the moderator pre-prepared questions about how to manage screen-use, but I felt like we were missing the mark. We were not interacting with the parents, hearing their concerns. As I walked out, my fear was confirmed. I heard parents complaining to the school staff that this was not the information they needed. They know and see the problem with tech infiltrating their children’s every moment. I overhead a parent complaining to administrators that they had always monitored screen-time, but when the laptops were sent home, everything spiraled out of control. Homework is on the computer and often online, and the parents’ ability to monitor screen-time has been hijacked.
Increasingly, families with resources are electing private schools, particularly Montessori or Waldorf inspired options which minimize technology in comparison to skills like sustained attention, learning through play, utilizing real materials and developing social skills. Montessori and Waldorf schools have distinct educational philosophies, but come with hefty price tags, often between ten and twenty thousand dollars per year in the United States. News articles about tech-insiders like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates choosing low-tech lifestyles and schools for their children proliferate the World Wide Web they helped to mainstream. Just this past week, Entrepreuner.com ran an article about the tech moguls choices of schooling. Business Insider followed suit and ran an article about the desire of those “in-the-know” to choose low-tech schooling for their own offspring. In that article, Sherry Turkle, a psychologist and research at MIT said the trend of schools to use devices to create “personalized” lessons plans for children is “Too much. Too much. Too much.” She emphasizes that kids need to work together face-to-face.
Home-schooling has nearly tripled in less than 20 years. Parents are increasingly choosing to home school children for a variety of reasons, many of which have to do with dissatisfaction with traditional schooling which increasingly emphasizes regimented learning, testing along with minimal time spent outdoors and in play-based and discovery-based learning activities. The over-use of screens in traditional public schools is increasingly becoming part of the concern of parents.
The Digital Divide in School Choice
Those “in-the-know” choose low-tech options for schooling. But, it’s not because they are in-the-know. It’s because they have the choice. Many parents see negative effects of the screen push in their children’s schooling and would love to choose a low-tech educational option. But, they financially cannot afford to make that choice. This is the new digital divide: high-income parents can opt out of the over-use of technology in schools. Many parents, especially lower-income parents do not have the freedom. Instead, they try to swim upstream and regulate over-use in an educational world that is pushing it for younger and younger children.
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