The Computer Kerfuffle

January 10th, 2011

For this post, I’m going to need a prop. Now, where is it? Ah. Found it. My trusty Soap Box. I shall now clamber aboard and proceed…

I’ve shared previously how I feel about television and children. They don’t mix. We strictly followed the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that kiddos under two not have any screen time and then it just felt right to keep going. We’ve scaled back the amount of television that Josh and I watch, and Miss Mouse still watches none at all.

But in today’s digital world, television is really just the beginning. There are plenty of other “screens” vying for kids’ attention, from toddler apps for your iPhone to a new tablet computer expressly marketed to the under-five crowd. I don’t care how hard the marketing people try, they’re not going to convince me that my child will be better, smarter, or more well-adjusted if she has her own computer at the age of two.

Suffice to say we try hard to keep Miss Mouse’s life mostly screen-free.* So you can imagine my horror when I realized that there was a computer in Miss Mouse’s classroom at school. And they were using it daily. Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhh.

This is KinderCare we’re dealing with, so the programs on the computer were “educational.” The one they used most was a program that read a story aloud with a bit of basic animation accompanying the words.

I was unimpressed.

My biggest concern had to do with passive versus active engagement. When Miss Mouse’s teachers are reading her a story, or they’re all doing puzzles, or painting a picture, she is actively engaged in the activity. Even if there’s a large group of kids, they can all be involved in whatever is going on, even when it’s “just” story time. Have you ever seen a pack of toddlers read “Going on a Bear Hunt” together? It’s awesome. The teachers do hand motions, the kids get up and stomp around, and everyone has a great time. But plunk those same kids down in front of a computer reading to them and you have a group of glassy-eyed kids staring, unmoving, at the screen. It becomes a very passive experience for everyone except the one kid charged with clicking the mouse to advance the story.

And so I became That Mother. The one who causes a kerfuffle by going to the Powers That Be and demanding/suggesting/imploring that they adjust the world to fit her preferences. But darned if they didn’t listen — and quick. Two days after I sent the center director a (somewhat sanctimonious, I fear) email, the computer vanished from Miss Mouse’s class. I am thrilled!

I don’t honestly know when we’ll start introducing screens into Miss Mouse’s life. I don’t intend to keep her locked away from all technology forever. But thus far, I haven’t seen an activity on computer or television screen that isn’t better when performed by human beings.

And if you’re still with me at the conclusion of this novella, I thank you. I shall now get off the soap box and put it away for a bit.

*In the interest of honesty, though, I should say that we do web chat with various family members who live far away and Miss Mouse loves that. Perhaps that’s hypocritical but I get to make my own rules, yes?

One response to “The Computer Kerfuffle”

  1. Isa says:

    I think there's a difference between watching a screen reading a story and talking to a person on a screen who talks specifically to you and responds to what you say. I admit to having a bit of your horror when I notice certain younguns in my vicinity getting dvds for christmas, even if they are children's programming. It just doesn't seem like it adds anything to their quality of life.

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