Every time I open Facebook I see one of those articles saying how screen time changes kids’ brains for the worse, or why parents should ban or heavily monitor the use of smartphones, tablets and computers.
I think about this a lot. We are, quite un-apologetically, a family that embraces technology wholeheartedly. Our children, like pretty much every one of their generation, are digital natives. How can they not be, their parents and grandparents being a bunch of geeks? But what if we’re wrong? What if we’re really hurting our kids giving them access to technology?
If one pediatrician is to be believed, screen time is not as bad as we thought, simply because “not all screens are created equal.” In other words, screens are not good or bad in themselves. They are a tool to be used wisely or foolishly. And besides, not only can our anxiety about screen time be worse than screen time itself, we may be missing the bigger picture altogether.
I think kids in general can benefit from using technology for various ends, but it’s particularly great for global citizens. Why? Here are three of the most important reasons.
3 Reasons Your Global Kids Should Get a Lot of Screen Time
1. Learning about the world
I studied Media Culture at university and I think the name says it all: these days, most cultures are heavily mediatized, meaning that meaning is created and shared through media, for example through movies. Many parents prefer books to devices, but the truth is that books can’t show you everything. For example, you can read books about different cultures, but can they show how all the different languages sound or how people dance? Can books show how people behave and talk and gesticulate? Books are great at telling stories and should remain an important part of our parenting philosophy. But why not complement books with other media- or better still, make it a part of a larger multi-sensory learning opportunity that would include reading, writing, watching movies, playing games and listening to podcasts? Books are great but I think these days, they’re not enough.
2. Maintaining the family culture
An important part of raising global citizens is, somewhat paradoxically, maintaining the family culture or cultures. Many parents raise their little global kids abroad, and for them, technology is often the only way to maintain the family culture. For example, my eldest daughter and I read a Polish book meant to teach children to read and write as well as give them some information about Poland. We use the book as a springboard to talk about different issues, but sometimes there is a song I don’t know and then I use Youtube to play it for her. Similarly, maintaining a connection to their extended families back home is extremely important. And while letters are great and quaint, why not send emails which arrive faster and don’t require going to the post office? I love keeping my blog for that reason, as well as online albums which I can easily share with my extended family. And of course, Skype is just perfect to remain in touch with family back home.
3. Making global connections
To me, the best thing about being a blogger and writer is the community. And, since I write about being an expat and raising multilingual children- and especially since I joined Multicultural Kid Blogs- my community just so happens to be all over the world.
These result in a lot of international exchange among the bloggers- we send letters, keepsakes, and little gifts to each other. And in many cases, children can get penpals that way. But why not use technology to bring your child in contact with other kids all over the world? Why not, on top of letters add Skype calls, emails and send photos and short movies together with little gifts to maintain connections? Besides, most school programs which bring together students from various countries work via Internet anyway.
The idea is not to completely ignore technology. We can’t do that anymore. Screens and interactivity have become facts of life, and I don’t think we can afford to let our kids grow up without technology, simply because it’s how most communication happens these days.
It’s also not about letting technology take over other forms of human interaction. Instead, we can use it to enrich our lives and that of our children. Maybe instead of demonizing technology, we should use it for a good cause- in our case teaching children about the world in a manner which has never been so diverse.
Mary Widdicks of Outmanned says: “Knowledge and experience are power, and technology has given our children the world at their sticky fingertips.”
And adds: “Someday, my children will have to face peer pressure, teasing and gossiping from their friends and classmates, but it will not be because of technology. If anything, the connections they’ve made and nurtured by the grace of the Internet will help remind them that hateful people are just a few out of the billions of people out there. Thanks to technology, they will have the entire collection of human history to guide them, the entire population from which to find their soulmates, and every piece of art or music ever created to inspire them.”
But I could never had said it better than her title: “The Internet Has Given My Children the World.”
I simply cannot agree more.