When is ‘too much’ a knee-jerk reaction to the unfamiliar?

Child & digital media

‘Smartphones and tablets are ruining childhood. No, wait—scratch that. Television is dumbing down our youth. Actually, hang on. Comic books are corrupting children’s morals. No, hold up. Books are ruining our ability to remember. Wait — back up a bit. We don’t like the way our kids have been painting on cave walls instead of just listening to elders recite stories by the bonfire.’

A recent blog post on children and technology from the US Fred Rogers Center says each new development in media technology causes excitement and angst among adults. But, as authors Michael Robb and Junlei Li suggest, children’s ‘obsession’ with technology could be telling us more about their underlying needs.

Mastering today’s technology may be more about meeting childhood needs similar to the childhood needs of earlier generations than we realise. Yet it is still worth weighing when ‘too much’ is just our knee-jerk reaction to unfamiliar forms, and when ‘too much’ really is too much. Robb and Li offer suggestions on tell tale signs.

This is a timely discussion in the week where the President of the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM), Professor Elizabeth Handsley, questions the too-narrow focus on cyber-bullying in proposals for a children’s E-commissioner. Could the narrower role of the proposed commissioner be another kind of knee-jerk reaction? Cyber-bullying is a real problem but not the most pressing priority for parents of younger children. Television use is considerably higher than internet or social media use among this group. Parents of younger children need help, Professor Handsley says, managing screen use of old and new media. Robb and Li suggest that ‘managing’ screens includes understanding the role they play in the child’s world and helping children strike a balance.

Read the original Fred Rogers blog to explore what’s happening when young children seem to obsess about technology and how adults can respond.

Read more from ACCM on the children’s E-commissioner and screens: Is cyber-bullying the greatest screen risk for children?

Share on Facebook294Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top