Have you ever given your kids access to technology to distract them, keep them entertained (at a restaurant for example) or just to get them out of your hair? I am guilty as charged! As you may know, Mike and I started Yukōdit as a way for kids to learn more than just how to “play” and use technology. Rather, we wanted our kids to be able to create in the digital world, which takes more than just learning how to code in front of a computer screen.
So needless to say, I was dismayed to read a recent article in the NY Post, suggesting that screen time turns kids into psychotic junkies, coining the term “digital heroin.” Sure, there have been times when I have noticed my kids getting lost in screen time, and that is usually my cue to switch activities and perhaps not offer access to technology as an option for a while. In fact, when we do go to a restaurant as a family or on a long car ride, I try to reserve technology for when the kids are bored and starting to fade. It’s not that I think playing on technology is inherently bad, but my Scottish grandfather who was raised in the depression always advised moderation, whether it was talking politics or eating ice cream!
The Post article takes it one step further. They suggest that playing educational apps on a device are like a gateway drug to something more serious, and actually lead to a pattern of behavior similar to addiction. Like when the author eventually found her son “in a trance” and trying to understand “how her once-healthy and happy little boy had become so addicted to the game that he wound up in a catatonic stupor.” Watch the disturbing video summary of the article and tell me it doesn’t remind you of the scary Nancy Reagan-era anti-drug campaigns many of us were exposed to growing up in the 1980’s.
This story sounds a little extreme to me. Did the mom allow her son to stop engaging in the real world altogether for this to happen? Of course, my own kids do not engage in “aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away” either. Nor do they become “bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in” as the author suggests is the case with many children.
But perhaps I am naïve as the parent of younger children, as I asked whether she “allowed” her son to get to such a point. What will happen when my kids get older, have their own devices, and I cannot simply take away or control their access? I am reminded of a simple instructional command my parents often presented to me as a child, and I have since used with my kids many a weekend afternoon: “Find something else to do… outside!”
At Yukōdit we promote a healthy balance between screen time and offline activities, which creates a sense of teamwork and collaboration among kids of different ages and ability levels. Our theory is that if we can teach kids to “program” instead of just “being programmed” by the devices, and pair those technical skills with collaboration and design-thinking skills, we can help prepare them to succeed in the digital world that surrounds them!
-Jamie Pagliaro, Co-founder