A few days ago I was at a family gathering. There were a large number of children under the age of 10 there as well as parents and friends of family etc, and there was one very interesting phenomenon that stuck out to me.
Firstly of course the children were being children and chasing each other and having fun and playing as children always do (thank goodness), then after about an hour there was silence and they were nowhere to be found. I looked for them, thinking that they had perhaps gone home or were playing somewhere else, but what I found to my amazement was that they were in fact all in one room together on beds all huddled up each with a small i-pad in their hands. All you could hear was the soft background noise of the whizzing and exploding of the programmes they were playing on the i-pads.
When I found them, they barely even acknowledged me, in fact were so engrossed in their games that an elephant could have walked in the room and no one would have budged from their bed.
It was at this time that the mother walked up behind me and looked into the room with me and smiled and whispered in my ear that – i-pads were the best invention ever created for kids and parents alike. Children got the chance to not only watch what they wanted but play and engage in often very educational challenging programmes to build their knowledge and skills. Parents as well got the chance to have some peace and quiet and enjoy whatever their spare time too.
It did make me think however how the television had served the same purpose for us as we were growing up. Parents were so happy to put on a Tom and Jerry cartoon to keep us all occupied while they had their own hobbies and pastimes to enjoy. However back then came the question of the value of the cartoons and how they only pushed violence and nonsense on our children.
There were some good points to television however, which was that as the channels got more diverse, the parents could monitor what each and everyone of them was watching, and could make rules and regulations on programmes that were acceptable and those that weren’t. It also meant that groups could be managed all at one time. E.g. Put everyone in front of the tv to watch an animal programme – educational for everyone and something parents could talk about with the children later. At the same time groups could have a shared experience, e.g. laugh together, be shocked together, have something to talk about together.
But television was also a passive approach to learning. It took a diligent parent to sit and quiz their children on what they were getting out of their viewing. This was always the downside.
Nowadays, however it appears even more complex.
The introduction of the i-pad has meant pluses and minuses.
1. Children can physically engage with the programme and interact giving right or wrong answers and have a sense of completion, satisfaction and fulfilment as well as learning rules, patterns and retaining learning for the future.
2. Children can engage in a subject area of their choice. E.g. If they love animals, they can learn through animals, if they love sports, they can learn through sports, etc
3. Parents can load onto the i-pad only the games that they want their children to play that they think are suitable.
4. These games are available 24 hours a day and at whim, unlike television which is (unless recorded) only on at certain times.
Negatives: (I feel honestly that there is only one – but it is a very important one)
1. The question of interactivity between children. To see them all sitting silently not engaging with each other about what they were doing or engaging in, appeared to me to be something that could have a long term impact on their communication skills. To be able to have whatever they wanted immediately at their fingertips with just a click, I felt gave them false impression on what life was really all about. There was no patience required, there was no cooperation required, there was no social interaction required to get the satisfaction from these machines. They provided it all – instantly and continuously.
Of course those games where they did have partners were very beneficial and I do believe should be encouraged, but so many of these games were alone, and the children chose to do the games alone, if there was one person sitting out watching, he was never asked to join, he could only simply watch while the other one played – continuously, over and over again, moving from level to level to level to reach……some unknown height.
It does beg the question – what is the future of our children’s social communication skills when they can be so satisfied with something that is totally solitary and immediate?
What do you think?
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