Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Canadian music professor advocates limiting Internet and digital time for kids


An article Sept. 10 in the Wall Street Journal by Canadian educator Martin Kutnowski, “Fighting the Internet Invasion of Childhood: When I heard my daughter’s screams from web deprivation, I knew I was onto something”, link here 

I can remember in the 1950s when seventh grade teachers said, “read, don’t watch television”.  Then at least one teacher assigned a specific television program. She thought that doing so was "a good thing."
It’s true, as one LTE said, that it really depends on what the kid does.  I think that both Andraka brothers used their surfing time pretty constructively from their parent’s home near Baltimore.  Kids use the Internet for legitimate homework, after all.  But most teens probably aren’t going to teach themselves advanced calculus on the web.  But just a few will.  I was a sub myself, and I saw the enormous range.

The First Lady herself said that the first family’s two daughters didn’t need to be on Facebook when they were too young.  Agreed.

The problem of the right exposure to media goes way beyond the Internet today and encompasses everything.  Pediatricians say that infants under two shouldn’t see fast-moving media images at all.  A family related to me enforces that. 

But what happens when a kid does have a particular talent, be it programming or music.  If he or she doesn’t stay at it consistently enough, he or she can miss the boat.  I think that was the case with me with piano.  That was an important idea in the WB show “Everwood”.

The world is a dangerous place, and there is a case to be made for the idea that all teens (and young adults) need to learn social flexibility and resilience, should external forces deny them their own choices in life.  Malcolm Gladwell has written about how much chance affects whether individual kids really get a chance to excel and escape the social and “real life” pressures that drag a lot of people down in a “winner take all” economy.  Social resilience has a lot to do with reducing inequality and the threat to stability that it can pose.  So professor Kutnowski’s programming of his family router to ration digital time to his kids does have real downstream significance.
  
I just noticed, at the end of the article, that D. Kutnowski is himself a composer and pianist.  That makes this really interesting, since for a youth to follow a career in music poses some of these questions. I’ll look up his work soon.  His ideas remind me of Jaron Lanier. No, people are not gadgets.  

Picture: the ragtag way I composed at age 18 in 1962.  But I was quite dependent then.  

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