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(1)It is not just iPad, but in general I am against any technology for the 0-9 age group.

(2)I am talking strictly for the 0-9 age group.

Ever since I read this, something has been brewing in my head and now I am fully convinced that technology is sensory deprivation for the 0-9 age group children.

My reasons.

(1)Young children need a warm adult human being to learn.

In 1960’s Harry Harlow, in order to study the human emotion of love, conducted a series of experiments with baby monkeys. He isolated many baby monkeys from their mother. Each of these baby monkeys were placed  in a cage. The cage contained a metal mesh, roughly shaped like a mama monkey, with a milk bottle attached to it. And a similar metal mesh wrapped in soft cotton, made plush, but with no nourishment of any sort. After many days of observation, Harlow concluded that all baby monkeys clearly preferred the cloth mother to the wire mother. The baby monkey would stay with the cloth mother running quickly to the wire mother to take a quick sip of milk and run back to the cloth mother. When the cloth monkey was removed from the cage, the baby monkeys became insecure and displayed panic and aggression(screaming, crying etc), over extended period of time some monkeys even died.

This kind of an experiment cannot be conducted on real human beings and the monkeys being very close to us in terms of evolution, this is proof enough for me. Children need a warm, living, talking human being to carry, touch, attend to the needs of the child, use voice with different modulations, exhibit a myriad of emotions, have unprogrammed response in order to nurture the child.

Revolutionizing the way how young children learn, by replacing the human interaction, even if it is only a part, with technology is not my cup of tea.

(2)The first thing that forms in the womb is the brain. Then the human body develops from the center to the extremities. That is growth is from the spinal cord/brain region to the limbs and finally to the digits. When a child is born she does not know that she has hands, legs, fingers and toes. Then over the first three years the child slowly discovers, understands and starts using her extremities.

The brain forming first is by no means an indication that the brain is fully developed at the time of birth. The brain at the time of birth is more like a perfectly planned city without ANY roads. How can one live in this city if there is no way to get from point A to point B? The roads are the neural networks. We need them to transmit electrical signals, to convey information, to access information, to connect something that we learnt long back in order to address the current problem at hand.

As the child grows so does her experience. The child discovers she has hands. This is an experience. She writes this in to her brain and forms certain neural networks.  The child discovers that her hands have some use, say pick up things. This is an experience. The already formed neural network is expanded or rewritten based on this new information. In a capsule, the brain is shaped and molded by the number of varied experiences a child has.

Using tech gizmo to learn her ABC or play with also an experience. But it is a one track experience, touch the screen, the next letter will be played, push this button the light will blink, pull the cord the siren will sound etc. There is no variation in the experience and there is neither scope for expansion of the network that is already formed nor any kind of rewriting of neural network that happens. Such learning is detrimental to the growing brain.

In very simple words, ‘THE MORE YOUR CHILD MOVES, THE MORE SHE LEARNS’. The way to a child’s brain is through unstructured gross motor movement and some simple fine motor movement.

(3)A machine is one size fits all and does not cater to children with difficulties perceiving certain patterns. Even a mild pattern perception problem, say for example your child is left handed instead of right handed, is not accounted for in many gizmos.

Having worked in a conventional school with traditional teaching methods, for a few months, I have seen first hand how a left hand child perceives the written letter differently. First of all we are talking about four year old children who do not get the very concept that letter is a symbolical representation of sound. Secondly we do not wait for the child’s hand muscles to develop, we expect them to write what is shown to them. Problems if any are addressed by repetition. This learning by rote rather than understanding can only go so far.

Where as children who are allowed to experience the symbol through body movements do much better. It is kind of an early intervention program, that acts on the weaker areas of the brain and strengthens it.

(4)The tech toys do not come cheap. Depending on the level of sophistication they leave a significant dent in your purse. As a generalization most of us have two children in a family. Do you buy two tech toys which means shelling out double the amount of money or do you buy one and expect the children to share?

If one truly believes that she is buying a tech toy to her child because she wants her child to learn, then by stipulating an usage time she insinuates that learning happens only during a specific time.

Okay the sharing business aside, parents expect children to sit at a place and play/learn with the gizmo without damaging the gizmo.  The child cannot open the gizmo, shake it, see what makes all this sound and movement to happen. Very fair expectation from the parent considering the price of the gizmo. You are teaching this child to merely enjoy the outcome, not to bother about how the whole shebang happens. Would you rather give your child a fish a day or teach your child to fish?

Young children need to see cause and effect and must also see that a varied cause makes a different effect. When you pour dry sand, this is how it falls. When you pour wet sand this is what happens. When you pour dry sand through a funnel, how does it fall? These are the simple and the most enriching experiences young children need.

(5)I am certainly worried about the radiation levels children are exposed to. Staring at a screen is very unnatural for the eyes. Again the brain develops in accordance to the signals it receives and a child exposed to TV/Kindle/iPad/iPhone grows up with a brain that is wired to see close by objects, looses interest in things that do not come with a sound and dance effect.

(6)I recently attended a lecture by Roland Steinemann and what he said was very interesting to me. While discussing what is the motivation of a child to learn, to go to school, he said that the till age 5 the main motivation for a child to learn is is the innate skill of every human being to imitate. Then till age 9/10 children learn because they love the teacher. After 10 is the stage where they learn for satisfying their curiosity.

Going by this logic, tech toys with programmed responses, which just throw information in your face, are much suitable for the 10+ age group.

(7)I have also heard the argument that this is the age of tech and if children are not introduced early on, they will loose out. Going by this argument Zuckerberg must have grown up with social networking and Larry Page must have grown up with search engines. All a child needs is unlimited imagination, curiosity to know and analyze things, determination and will to follow through.

For your further reading pleasure

Last Child In The Woods by Richard Louv

Power Of Play by David Elkind

Smart Play Smart Toys by Stevanne Auerbach

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