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Are We Slaves to Technology? | Montessori Hampstead | Nursery Hampstead

Slaves to Technology?

There is no doubt that the world is changing and technology infiltrates every part of our lives, but what effect is this having on our children? This is a very common debate and the arguments vary from the draconian ban on all types of technology to parents who actively encourage it and don’t want their children to be ‘left behind’. There is no right or wrong answer and every parent needs to do what is right for their particular circumstances.
Do we have iPads and touch screen technology at Casa Dei Bambini? Yes we do, but we are very mindful about how the children use them. The children do not have free access to iPads but we do let the children use them to take photos on occasion. One exercise we do is to ask the children to go and photograph their favourite activity or outdoor plant and then tell us about it. We might show them how to use Google maps to navigate to the park, for example or show them a video of a volcano erupting.  However, we are also very aware that some of our children may have access to iPads at home and that even the younger ones may be exposed through elder siblings. But at school we aim to learn through experiencing the real world, not the virtual.
So how do we protect our children in this techno age? It is without doubt a problem for some. Brain imaging research has shown that devices affect the brain’s frontal cortex like a Class A Drug and a Director of Neuroscience at UCLA had referred to screens as ‘electronic cocaine’.
In addition, the blue light emitted from screens has a negative effect on sleep. The light from our devices is “short-wavelength-enriched,” meaning it has a higher concentration of blue light than natural light - and blue light affects levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin more than any other wavelength.  A recent study by Birkbeck University and King’s College London has shown that toddlers who use a touchscreen spend less time sleeping at night. Every additional hour spent using a touchscreen during the day led to an average of 16 minutes less sleep in any 24-hour period.
If you feel that your child is getting too much screen time, follow your instincts - you are probably correct. Parents of older children can take this test

Here are our tips for moderating screen use at home:

  1. Talk with your child and set up a daily limit. Get an old school egg timer to help them visually understand how much time is left.
  2. Do not have the TV on as background. With TV on demand, we are masters of our own TV schedule. Allow just a few specific shows and set aside time to watch these only.
  3. If your child is watching TV/shows on an iPad, sit down and participate with them. Talk about the show, talk about your real life experiences of what is on the show. Bring it into the real world.
  4. Children are watching you. Always. Limit your screen time. If they see you constantly checking your phone, they will want to imitate you.
  5. Don’t forget about the importance of offline - involve your children in writing shopping lists, letters, even doodling! Buy a newspaper and pick up a book. Although we read the news online and books on Kindles, let your children see you reading real printed matter. They will want to do the same.
  6. Be brave and experiment with a technology ban for a week. It may be easier than you think; explain to your children what will happen and just go cold turkey! 
If you would like any further information on the studies carried out or would like to discuss any issues raised in this article with us, please contact us. We are happy to help!
Casa dei Bambini Montessori School