November 17, 2011

Electronic media can be toxic?!

Filed under: Demographics,Technology — by xrematon @ 9:25 pm
Tags: , ,

‘Electronic media are not only an inferior means for children to experience and learn about their world, they can be toxic.’

‘On a more serious note, its just a toy not the work of the devil.’

Well, what to make of those two comments? Which side of the argument do I find myself on?

It was recently my son’s birthday, and I decided I wanted to get him something that would last and not be added to the pile of very much loved, but very annoying-to-tidy-up-every-night pieces of plastics. So I thought it would be good to get an ‘educational’ item, but despite my earlier thoughts, I decided to cop out and get a LeapPad Explorer. If you haven’t come across it before, there’s a picture below. Some call it the iPad for kids, but to me, it’s more like a glorified PDA (remember when they were all the rage, before we had Blackberries and smart phones?)

As you can probably tell, I have mixed feelings about the device, and as is my wont when I am not sure about something, I thought I would check out other opinions online. Hence the identification of the above two quotes. The second one is from Mumsnet, where there were a wide range of views, some more relaxed, and others deadset against the whole idea. One of the latter group included a link to the article from which the first quote came.

So what do I think? My views are very boring – I am neither a fervent techie, nor a tech prohibitionist. It’s just about finding the right balance. But I do get fed up with simplistic assumptions that using ‘tech toys’ (for the want of a better word to describe the likes of LeapPads, Wiis, Nintendos etc) are not creative experiences. My own thoughts echo those captured by a friend in a recent post on a similar topic for her company blog at LadyGeek. I was struck by one of her sentences.

‘We have entered a new era where my children’s imaginations are augmented by technology.’

That’s right – technology can add to what’s there. Otherwise, we might as well as only allow black and white crayons in the fear that it would mean children couldn’t imagine colours themselves. (Ok – that’s a bit extreme!)

My final observation: any fears I might have had that my son was going to become a pale-faced, digit-twitching geek proved to be quickly unfounded. The first night he received the LeapPad, he did play with it obsessively, mainly to use the camera, but on the next day, we were onto the next thing.

So now should I be worrying that he has too many toys? It is true that we  British parents buy an average of 41 toys per year, which is almost a toy per week, creating the biggest toy market in Europe.

Or maybe I should be worrying about the fact that my son will be a luddite after all!


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