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Turning Your Children Into Big Fat Zeros (And Ones)

Gadgets such as ipads and smart phones should come with warning labels.

By: Rebecca Savastio

Parents, would you give your children a crack pipe and a couple grams of rock cocaine? Would you take them to the casino to gamble or introduce them to cigarettes? How about providing them with unlimited alcohol with no concern or discussion about its dangers?

If you answered these questions with “no,” then why are you giving them electronic gadgets without also insisting upon strict usage limitations? Why are you giving your babies and toddlers ipads when doctors and psychologists have issued repeated strict warnings that children under two should not be exposed to any screens at all? Most importantly, why are we allowing gadgets to proliferate in US classrooms with no proof that these technologies improve learning outcomes?

A strong body of evidence suggests that gadgets like smartphones, ipads and laptops are as addictive as illegal street drugs, and that being separated from them can result in severe physical withdrawal symptoms including sweating, shaking, extreme anxiety, heart palpitations and hyperventilation.

What’s worse, in addition to their highly addictive nature, overuse of these objects have been proven to reduce productivity, impair cognition and cause shrinkage of brain tissue (that’s also known as brain damage.)

Now before you prepare your statements calling me a Luddite, let me clarify that I’m not suggesting that the aforementioned items be banned, I’m simply proposing that we become more careful about using them, since they can cause tremendous harm when misused. While this suggestion incites a state of absolute rage in self-proclaimed Cyber Evangelists, fear of being labeled old fashioned should not stop us from discussing this very real and growing problem.

Think about your own life for a moment. If you’ve ever sat impatiently at a table while your companion fiddled with his phone, played with your own phone while ignoring your children, found yourself wasting time on social media when you should have been doing something else or know someone who has been killed in a texting and driving accident, then you’ve already experienced some of the tragedies and frustrations caused by gadget addiction.

In some Asian countries, there are actual centers set up for the sole purpose of treating this addiction. There is great concern over use of electronics in schools, and now some doctors in the US are following suit. In fact, The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction in West Hartford Connecticut offers both intensive care and individual counseling for those who are unable to tear themselves away from their devices.

Gadget use is unique in that it is the only thing which is proven to be highly addictive that we aggressively push on our children at home and in schools. No other vice which has the potential for damaging our physical and mental health is treated similarly.

It is beyond bizarre that we would continue to implement “Bring Your Own Gadget” programs in schools when we know they have the potential to lower grades and interfere with deep, focused learning. In fact, in the last ten years, SAT and ACT college readiness scores have been plunging consistently, both winding up at all-time historical lows in 2012. To believe there is no correlation between the explosion of technology in classrooms and our current standing in education is misguided at best.

Studies have shown that most students who bring their phones into the classroom use it for personal texting during the lesson instead of its intended purpose. Since multitasking has been proven to be a myth and shown to reduce productivity by up to 40% by a body of solid evidence, we can only conclude that using gadgets in the classroom has contributed to the decline of education in the US.

We must blow the whistle on the current trend of gadgets in the classroom, and begin to reign in their use in the home or suffer ever-increasing dire consequences.

References:

Clifford Nass, Eyal Ophir and Anthony D. Wagner, “Cognitive
control in media multitaskers,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
of the United States of America 106, no. 37 (2009): DOI:
10.1073/pnas.0903620106

Fuchun Lin1., Yan Zhou2., Yasong Du3., Lindi Qin2, Zhimin
Zhao3, Jianrong Xu2*, Hao Lei1, Abnormal White Matter Integrity in Adolescents
with Internet Addiction Disorder: A Tract-Based Spatial Statistics Study

Joshua S. Rubinstein.; David E. Myer; Jeffrey E. Evans.
(2001). Executive Control of Cognitive Processes in Task Switching. Journal of
Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 27(4), 763-797

Fang-Yi Flora Wei; Y. Ken Wang; Michael Klausner,
“Rethinking College Students’ Self-Regulation and Sustained Attention: Does
Text Messaging During Class Influence Cognitive Learning?,” Communication
Education 61, no.3 (2012): DOI:10.1080/03634523.2012.672755

Wilhelm Hofmann, Kathleen D. Vohs, and Roy F. Baumeister,
“What People Desire, Feel Conflicted About, and Try to Resist in Everyday
Life”, Psychological Science, June 2012; vol. 23, 6: pp. 582-588., first
published on April 30, 2012



 



 



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Mary Kay January 04, 2013 at 04:15 PM
Mostly agree. Our 17 year-old has a standard issues phone with no data plan. He isn't allowed to have it turned on at school but we do allow him to bring it with him. We have pretty simple rules, no texting at the dinner table, always answer with a "Hello" even if you know who is calling, always answer when Mom or Dad call. I'm more concerned with grown adults who lose their manners and refuse to put the smart phone down when in the company of other grown adults. Happened to me at a Holiday party and I walked away from the person.
Robert Van Meter January 04, 2013 at 05:47 PM
Great points...I agree! Some people will get a bit defensive because sometimes it's hard to look at ourselves honestly..but if they take a minute and think they may realize that for societies sake, we need to be more thoughtful , less reactionary, and less consumer culture oriented.
Andrew Shalat January 04, 2013 at 07:43 PM
Fear of the new isn't new. Please. [exasperated sigh]
Larry Johnston January 04, 2013 at 08:09 PM
Andrew-Ridiculous comment. It's not "fear of the new" it's "fear of extreme idiocy." Interesting how you present no evidence for a counter-argument. If it's simply "fear of the new," then how come Asian countries, which are leaders in new technologies, have addicition treatment centers??? Maybe if we did the same thing here, society wouldn't be so stupid. It's when people blow off important topics like that we get into trouble. Back in the 50's, no one believed smoking was dangerous either. People want to do what they want to do without being questioned, and attack the person doing the questioning instead of providing any evidence to the contrary.
Andrew Shalat January 04, 2013 at 08:25 PM
Well, I guess you win the argument then.
Maryann Campling January 05, 2013 at 12:52 AM
Rebecca....your observations and common-sense logic is a breath of fresh air. You will get challenged, no doubt from folks who "don't get it" but kudos for having the courage of your convictions. The media (and the world) needs more linear thinkers and fewer politically-correct ideologists....keep up the good work!
Rebecca Savastio January 05, 2013 at 03:22 AM
Thank you so much Maryann!
Concerned Mom of 3 January 05, 2013 at 05:13 AM
Almost 100% agree, although strictly limited iPads or other tablets or notebook computers may have a place in underprivileged secondary schools where they may provide the only means of getting textbooks, other literature, internet access for research, and word-processing and presentation software into the hands of students. Phones have absolutely no place in the classrooms except turned off and kept in a pocket for emergency purposes. I would assert, however, that mobile devices are not the first addictive devices freely given to children by their parents. The "little" screen (as it was, relative to the big screen as movies were called) has been addicting and dumbing down our kids for 6 decades now. Funny how the media never analyzes that factor when analyzing our educational decline in the past half-century. Even Sesame Street, with its educational subject matter, has had to repeatedly reduce the length of its segments and up the special effects to keep kids engaged over the past several decades. There are also some studies suggesting links between childhood screen exposure and rising rates of disorders on the autism spectrum but you won't see those recapped in the mass media either.
Jana Lenkiewicz January 05, 2013 at 07:56 PM
I agree that personal technology has eroded people's ability to concentrate deeply on tasks which disallows a "learning flow." I believe technology also increases anxiety and lack of awareness of one's immediate personal space - including those people that occupy it. On the other hand, along with the number of books in the home and the education level of the parents, a home computer is one of the top predictors of school readiness and future sucess. Schools have a responsibility to educate children in a way that prepares them to function in today's computer based society. Also, there is way too much valuable information on the web to not have easy access to it in schools. We need to be teaching students to seek and utilize information in all forms - which means screen time. But I agree that computers and ipads are not a panacea to America's educational problems and should be integrated into the curriculum carefully and thoughtfully. By the way, the two other top indicators of school readiness are limited tv viewing and exposure to the arts!

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