The problem with the media-free household...

As a regular reader of tech blogs and parenting sites, I frequently come across the strongly-held views of the "no-tech parent". These are moms and dads that have decided that nothing good can come from their kids spending hours playing "mindless" video games or surfing the web.

Here's a comment on the recent Kaiser Family Foundation study that was posted on the web site of regional TV station:

"I find it mind-boggling that parents could expose their children to various forms of media for nearly 8 hours a day. I go to friends' houses and family gatherings and I see these pasty-faced kids glued to their iPhones and gaming devices, not talking with adults or each other as they frantically hammer away at the controls. My husband and I have taken a conscious decision to ban all such devices from our own house. Despite the occasionally complaint, my kids are healthy, happy and excellent conversationalists. I only wish more parents would follow our lead."

The writer doesn't say what age her kids are. Perhaps they are tweens tech-savvy enough to know what they're missing but young enough that the "occasional complaint" hasn't turned into outright rebellion.

Despite my misgivings about this parent's approach, part of me is a little jealous. Think about those wonderful screen-free days, where you don't have to worry about parental controls or what inappropriate video they just downloaded from iTunes.

But then reality creeps in. What does your child say when all her friends are on Club Penguin? What happens at school when it's time for computer lab and he's so far behind everyone else? What do you tell them when they are the only ones at camp without an iPod?

That's the problem with the media-free household. You may be able to maintain the no-tech bubble within the walls of your own home but, unless you home school and cancel all outside activities, the bubble will burst by the time they reach 4th grade.

I suspect our mom from the TV web site is beginning to realize the limitations of her no-tech zone. Her plaintive hope that more parents follow her lead suggests that her go-it-alone approach is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.

Trying to shield children from technology is a bit like keeping them away from water. Sure, you may be able to prevent accidents when they're young, but at some stage they are going to have to learn how to swim. By all means restrict the amount of time they spend with screens and gadgets, but a complete ban will end up doing more harm than good.

How do you feel about a no-tech policy for younger kids? Does it help or hinder their development? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!

Comment by Jaqui Kanuk, posted 4/22/2011, 4:00 PM:

Everything in moderation. I feel that social media is the current form and future in socializing and is a skill that needs to be learned along with face to face conversation. When I look at my 10 year old son's FB page there is a tremendous amount of interacting and discussion (at their age level) and there have been many teaching moments (see the article about this posted this week). This is in addition to these kids spending all day together at school. The world is different.
Comment by Claudia Yepez, posted 3/22/2011, 6:24 PM:

There is certainly a time for everything. I do not think children under the age of 13 should have an iphone, ipod or even a portable computer. At this age, they still need to acquire social skills, they need to be able to sustain a conversation and to relate to their natural world. We cannot stop technology from being a part of our lives, it is just ridiculous. We can, however, teach our children to use technology with measure, with a purpose in mind and not just to isolate ourselves. Thank you.
Comment by Ellen Lebowitz, posted 7/30/2010, 10:41 AM:

I think parents who "shield" their kids from technology are irresponsible,lazy and denying their kids a future. Kids who have no access to computers, for example, have no chance of competing for anything in a digital world. They have little access to the information available on the web; they have limited research tools and generally speaking are left out of the culture. There are very few,if any jobs that do not include some sort of computer proficiency. Thank you, Ellen Lebowitz
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