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Island Parenting: TV, Technology And Children

Opinion / Virgin Islands / July 27, 2016

It is Summer and school is out. During this time many parents tend to take a more relaxed approach to television-watching and the use of other technological devices. The thought process, the children do not have to wake up early the next day to be shuttled off to the school so what is the harm in letting them watch another hour or two of television? Or, there is no homework or project to be turned in the next day so there is no harm in unlimited use of the iPad or the iPhone for playing games as long as it is educational. On the issue of screen time, many have argued over the years that it does have its advantages and disadvantages and for many others it is a matter of family dynamics or parenting choice. I am no fan of screen time for children. I think it takes them away from the more important work of childhood. I think that they should be out and about discovering, playing, creating, writing or reading.

For this edition of Navigating “Island” Parenting I have chosen to provide you with some food for thought on screen time. I have also chosen to share some of the screen time practices implemented by parents such as the Apple technology giant and innovator, Steve Jobs. The hope is that this submission would cause you to reflect on your parenting skills and also make the journey of parenting a bit easier or brighter.

Did you know that Steve Jobs had a strict technology use policy with his children?

After the launch of the first iPad, Steve Jobs was asked by the New York Times whether his children liked the new device. Jobs’ response, “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”
Additionally, Walter Isaacson, the author of “Steve Jobs,” who had spent a lot of time around Jobs’ family was cited as saying, “Every evening Steve made a point of having dinner at the big long table in their kitchen, discussing books and history and a variety of things.” He continued, “No one ever pulled out an iPad or computer. The kids did not seem addicted at all to devices.”

Other technology executives and venture capitalists also practice low tech parenting.

In 2014, New York Times writer Nick Bilton was keen on noting that many technology executives and venture capitalists practice low tech parenting. He said that they strictly limit their children’s screen time and often ban all gadgets on school nights, and allocate ascetic time limits on weekends. He also said that Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired and chief executive of 3D Robotics, a drone maker, said that he has instituted time limits and parental controls on every device in his home.

Nick Bolton also said that Evan Williams, a founder of Blogger, Twitter and Medium, and his wife, Sara Williams told him that in lieu of iPads, their two young boys have hundreds of books that they can pick up and read anytime. In his piece Bilton thought it pertinent to stress that the hundreds of books that Evans referred to were ‘physical books’ not books to be found on or read from a technological device.

Another Growing Parenting Trend among Technologists

“Silicon Valley engineers and execs are even going to the extreme of sending their kids to computer-free schools. A Times from 2011 reported that engineers and execs from Apple, eBay, Google, Hewlett-Packard and Yahoo are sending their kids to a Waldorf elementary school in Los Altos, Calif., where you won’t find a single computer or screen of any sort. Also, kids are discouraged from watching television or logging on at home. Alan Eagle, who works in executive communications at Google and has a degree in computer science from Dartmouth, has a fifth grader who attends the school and he told the Times that she “doesn’t know how to use Google…The thinking is that technology interferes with creativity and young minds learn best through movement, hands-on tasks, and human-to-human interaction. Students at this school are gaining math, patterning, and problem-solving skills by knitting socks. They aren’t exposed to fractions through a computer program. Instead they learn about halves and quarters by cutting up food.” Amy Graff

Did you know that the inventor of television did not let his own children watch television?

It has often been reported that Philo T. Farnsworth the inventor of the television would not let his own children watch television. He was quoted as saying to his son, “There’s nothing on it worthwhile and we are not going to watch it in this household and I don’t want it in your intellectual diet.”

TELEVISION-Poem by Roald Dahl

The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set —
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink —
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY … — USED … TO … READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rate and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

Quotes on Television Watching and Children

“All television is educational television. The question is: what is it teaching?” Nicholas Johnson
“Television has changed a child from an irresistible force to an immovable object.” Unknown
“Television is teaching all of the time. It does more educating than the schools and all of the institutions of higher learning.” Marshal McLuhan
“If you came and found a strange man teaching your kids to punch each other or trying to sell them all kinds of products you would kick him right out of your house but here you are you come in and the TV is on and you don’t think twice about it.” Jerome Singer
“TV.  If kids are entertained by two letters, imagine the fun they’ll have with twenty-six.  Open your child’s imagination.  Open a book.”  Author Unknown

Recommended Reading for Children

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
M is for Mischief-An A to Z of Naughty Children written by Linda Ashman, Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard by Jennifer K. Mann
Your Fantastic, Elastic Brain Stretch It, Shape It by JoAnn Deak Ph.D, Illustrated by Sarah Ackerley
Maisy Goes to the Museum by Lucy Cousins

Recommended Reading for the Parent

The Growth of the Mind by Stanley Greenspan

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Mutryce Williams
Mutryce A. Williams is a native of St. Kitts and Nevis who resides in Frederiksted. She is a mother, writer, social commentator, advocate, columnist, educator, cultural conservationist, poet, artist, former diplomat, certified homeland protection professional and volunteer extraordinaire. Ms. Mutryce is an international relations and national security specialist who holds a doctorate in public policy administration with a double concentration in terrorism, mediation and peace and homeland security policy and coordination.

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