When it comes to screen time for kids, I personally believe that less is more. Various surveys’ results showed that exposing young children to any kind of digital platform, from junk TV to educational apps, could lead to delayed or stunted language development and poorer reading skills. I have red that some American paediatricians advised the parents and kids in their care to stay away from screens. I would be perhaps more flexible and say stay moderately and in balanced way in touch with screens given the new paradigm that we live in whether we want or not to accept . This is reality. The new era we live in. I wrote about it in my last article entitled ‘The Danger of Being Virtually Connected’. All in all, I don’t think we need special and scientific surveys to prove at least to me quite sad reality that our kids even those with high IQ face great challenge when it comes to their poor communication skills. Since these type of soft skills aren’t taught at majority of schools in Europe and even at academia level, for me this issue emerges as a challenge.
If you observe kids and teens you will notice their fairly poor vocabulary and inability to articulate their communication even in their mother language. It makes me sad, I must admit, moreover because Croatian education system declaratively stress the importance of developing IT skills with kids. That’s OK as long as their teachers are, first of all good and competent pedagogues and do posses ability to transfer their knowledge and skills. Nevertheless, in my opinion communication first, or could be dealt simultaneously with the IT.
Subsequently, many parents struggle to evaluate how old their children should be to safely surf the Internet, handle instant messaging, use smartphones and set up social networking sites. Today’s kids are inundated with technology. But who does buy them various gadgets and sophisticated toys? We do, don’t we? Hence, you may eventually consider to re-evaluate your view on that.
OK, the gist of my article is not to give you lecture how you should manage your children and their quality time, but what kids actually have to do with the tech technologies and lawmakers ? They do very much. Well, it does as the kids welfare comes first when it comes to all kinds of arguments for writing rules in the IT legislative domain. I understand that in a global debate about how to regulate the tech sector, European and American lawmakers are increasingly pointing to their children’s education and well-being as the strongest motivators to draft new rules. It is quite easy to figure out why.
While issues like data protection can be tricky to grasp, there is nothing mysterious about screen addiction, online bullying or excessive use of social media, all of which are ,the subject of potent side effect of technology according to surveys data . Potential harm to children is an emotional argument that short-circuits counterclaims about the danger of restricting free speech or innovation. The fact is that also lawmakers are parents who are very attentive and careful when it comes to internet media platforms, games, etc. addiction. High tech moguls too, stated that they explicitly limit their kids spending time on the tech gadgets and social media.
Thus, it seems that all these debates and discussion triggered the lawmakers action in terms of harnessing those same protective instincts, to brainstorm and float potential new policies. Hence, I red that the UK Health minister announced that office would be publishing official guidelines on the maximum amount of time young people should spend on social media.
I can fully grasp that an appeal to kids’ welfare can be a cumbersome for tech companies to face and to counter. Hence, they already have automatic reply that it goes like : ‘Sure, it is not up to us but up to you as parents to make sure your kids are using technology responsibly’, and I agree. However, when it comes to enforcing any restrictions by legislation the response goes like ‘No, no, that is definitely not good idea’. One of their argument was also that the legislators are not up to tech savvy to propose anything useful. Politicians, on the other hand are fully aware that the backlash from the tech community over minor missteps can be tough.
Hence, when they talk about tech, they do it with animosity that comes at you, as some of honourable members of parliaments have PR background at some of the large companies that might not like what you are saying, or they may say they are an old school and not technologically advanced people making these important decision.
So, what’s the solution ? Outsource experts ’cause lawmakers should not be setting such an important policy only and exclusively by themselves.
It’s about a process and the mindset reform obviously. I hope that politicians and EU institutions too will raise this issue in their narrative during electoral campaign in the 2019. European elections and beyond, of course. For me personally, it’s about super ‘hot topic’ that deserves maximum media and public attention. It’s about our kids, for G-d sake!
To recap when it comes to us, dear parents, we’d better start taking action at home rather than waiting for legislators to do something. I am, as a mother quite worried about the growing evidence of the impact of social media on children’s mental health. I know that other parents are too but they do not take any action in most cases but rather complaining. Unsupervised access to the internet is dangerous,and can be self destructive as well.
Hence, I would like parents to understand that, frankly speaking all IT gadgets, be it PC, smartphone, tablets, in my view, can be justified and useful tool if used at home ‘public spaces’ rather than in kids privacy so that at least parents have the chance of walking past occasionally and seeing what their kids are looking at.