Thursday, April 07, 2011

Technology and Little Ones - Finding the upside

I'm making my way through Positive Discipline: The First Three Years - a day care recommended book on the topic of discipline. For the most part, I'm really enjoying it and finding it quite useful. I'll do a full review when I'm finished with the book, but reading through the chapter on technology got me thinking enough that a blog post was called for.

A very quick and dirty summary of the book might go like this: Your 0-3 year old needs to learn about the foundations of discipline*. To do this, you need to find the midpoint between punishment and permissiveness. In other words, spanking your child is out, and so is letting them do whatever they want. Instead, you want to help your child achieve the age appropriate level of independence.

Got all that? The book then goes through the classic range of topics, from tantrums to toilet training, and explains how this philosophy applies. It's a sensible approach and one I think they do a good job with. That is, until they hit the chapter on technology.

As you can imagine, the chapter on technology (TV, computers, and other screen time activities) leaned heavily towards the danger of these mediums. Everything from the "it's not healthy for their brains" to the "they'll see poor role models" is covered. Essentially, it's easy to swing to the permissive side of things when technology is involved. And the points are all valid.

What got me buzzing though, was that there was no suggestions for how technology could be used as a positive force in a child's life. You're telling me that with infinite content of YouTube, the highly interactive nature of cell phones and power of the desktop computer, there's no way to harness this good? When our little one listens to CDs of nursery rhymes, it's a good thing - he learns all sorts of language constructs. Yet, when you add a visual component, it suddenly becomes TV and is evil?

I'm not suggesting the book shouldn't have had plenty of stern warnings about technology being a trap for kids. I just wish that they would have considered the technology what it is: tools. And giving parents suggestions for how these tools could be used in a positive way would be far more valuable than just writing them off as a necessary evil.

*That's discipline as in "man, that Olympic athlete is disciplined!" not discipline as a euphemism for punishment or spanking

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