My favorite piece of equipment is my iphone. I just love the convenience of it, the fact that I can get my emails on it, contact friends, especially those overseas, via facebook, Whatsapp and WeChat, not to mention all the other apps, including – would you believe it? – actually texting and making phone calls! Who would have thought a phone could do all that! Yes, I’m being a tad facetious here. Everyone thrives on using their phones. How did we ever live without them?
I like kids using various apps for educational purposes too. For example, my grandchildren (aged 6 and 4) never have to be hounded to do their spelling and maths ‘homework’ as they enjoy using their ABC spelling egg and maths seed because those apps on Mum’s tablet are fun! Only about 10 minutes a day and they love it! And they are reinforcing their learning.
I am concerned though when technology is overused – particularly phones. I am staggered that the Australian state, Victoria, has just banned phones in all government primary and secondary schools. I am staggered that it needs legislation at all. Surely all schools already do this? Apparently not. Kids need to learn the art of conversation, the skills of discussion, of argument, of debate, of problem-solving and of social interaction. Where are they going to learn and practise these skills if not at school? Disengagement via phones is a serious issue.
Children learn to use their phones and think that it’s ‘cool’ to do so because they see their parents and other adults doing so. Spending inordinate amounts of time on one’s phone is not only unhealthy for the adults because of their disengagement with what’s going on around them, and often downright dangerous, but poor modelling when children bear witness to it. And what of the lack of interaction within families? That’s a tragedy. Schools can’t do it all on their own.
Phones are addictive. At the ECE State Conference last weekend, Claire Orange spoke on this topic and showed a picture of a mother feeding her baby with a bottle (wouldn’t have mattered if she had been breast-feeding – the bottle is not the issue here) while looking away at her phone. It is essential for a baby’s development to look at the mother’s face, especially the eyes (or the face of whoever is holding the baby). There is so much input for the baby through this simple action. For anyone who has ever fed a baby (and plenty of men have fed their babies with bottles) you will agree that the baby can’t take his or her eyes off your face. This is normal and essential for the baby’s development. Not only that, but when are you ever going to get such undivided attention and adoration? (Yes, being a tad facetious again.) Seriously, it is a beautiful bonding time for parent and child. I found the image so upsetting I had to look away. Perhaps the mother had not been told that her baby is only tiny for a tiny while and she needs to pay attention, that she can look at her phone another time. Perhaps she was unaware. How sad for her and for her baby.
Claire Orange also quoted the frightening statistic that in Australia (and I’m sure this would be true in other countries as well), by the time a child is eight years old he or she will have spent the equivalent of one year in front of some device or other. Food for thought!
This morning I went to a funeral service which lasted 1.5 hours. For the entire time, the young woman next to me was fiddling on her phone, hiding it in the service brochure! Clearly, she had things to do (I’m being kind here) so why was she even pretending to be ‘present’ at that funeral? This is how absurd it can get. What about the young woman who runs over a child on a footpath because she’s texting while driving, saying plaintively that she has tried to stop texting while driving but she just can’t. Oh please! Have you heard of putting your phone in the boot?
It is addictive for a lot of people. Children are even more susceptible so there’s even more of an imperative to not make phones so attractive that even young children just ‘have to’ look at their phones as often as possible.
If your school is not yet a phone-free school, then please make it so immediately. How many hours a day are they at school? Seriously, they can do without their phones. There are better things to do.