Facts not fear-mongering

Early Childhood social media ran hot last week about mobile devices and whether they should be banned for children under 12 years of age. Articles were posted and counter posted citing arguments for and against. Some articles are big on generalisations and alarm but small on important details and logic. Claims that ‘technology restricts movement’ for example seem odd in supposedly research-based articles about mobile devices. (Wouldn’t you think a fact-based approach would mention that mobile devices are better placed than most technologies to promote movement, short sharp bursts of technology use, collaborative play and outdoor, fresh-air exploration?)

Professor Leon Straker, from Australia’s Curtin University in WA, makes the point that we don’t know as much as we should about the interaction of very young children with technology. Many adults learn about technology use through their schooling and work. And for some that is a while ago. Our views might be drawing on research and circumstances that no longer apply; research into older technology forms, older children and adults, or usage patterns that might not reflect Australian circumstances. We need research into newer technology forms and how young children and families are already using them in Australia. This is what Leon Straker is doing. (You can see Leon Straker in the DBK videos, in ECA’s October Learning Hub Webinar or learn more in Digital Business Kit Module 2).

As for banning devices, it might make adults feel they are doing something but is not likely to work. A ban can be more to do with adult feelings of fear about the pace of change and ignorance about technology in the child’s world.

The digital playground will respond to a ban in much the same way as other playgrounds respond. The banned item goes underground, away from wise guidance and thoughtful oversight. Families are left feeling they can’t ask for help in case they are judged bad parents. Children gravitate to the ‘cool’ item and the people who will show them. They learn about it less well than they might have. They miss out on incorporating it into their ‘whole learning context’. (Think about other

If you really are interested in some facts have a look at Professor Lydia Plowman’s non-fear mongering analysis of the research: Six questions parents ask about their child’s use of digital media at www.thechildrensmediafoundation.org/parent-portal. (Digichild carried an earlier post on Plowman’s review, below.)

Or stop by the NAEYC statement on Technology, Interactive Media and Young Children for a thoughtful approach to adult responsibilities (www.naeyc.org/content/technology-and-young-children).

Or look at 10 Reasons Why We Need Research Literacy, Not Scare Columns.

Or better still if you are a sceptic or know someone in early childhood education and care who is, look at Modules 1 and 2 of ECADigital Business Kit to learn more about educators, technology and young children.

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Clare McHugh

Clare McHugh is a Project Manager in ECA’s Learning Hub. She is responsible for the Digital Business Kit, exploring possibilities for technology in the early childhood sector, and for Start Early, an initiative to develop long term strategies that prevent domestic and family violence. Clare has been thinking and writing about children, family and social policy for many years, including previously for the Commonwealth Child Care Advisory Council and the Australian government. Her background is in psychology and professional writing. She has worked in adult development and group facilitation, employer sponsored child care, family relationships and in the publishing industry. Outside of ECA Clare continues several writing and publishing projects through her freelance business.

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