Thursday, March 21, 2013

What are apps doing to children's brains?

Sixth graders construct a Rube Goldberg machine, using hands-on problem-solving skills to explore forces of motion and make a simple task complicated.
The Touch Screen Generation by Hanna Rosen in the latest Atlantic gives a Mom's eye view of the controversies around kids and apps.  How much screen-time is OK?  How do you weigh educational apps vs games?  But the viewpoint the author leaves out is the one brought to us by JoAnn Deak: what does neuroscience show us about how the brain develops?  Dr. Deak shared the research showing that the brain's windows of opportunity for growth, once closed are pretty much closed forever.  She recommended little to no screen time for kids younger than 5.  (She does give a break to parents of a screeming toddler on the plane - just hand them the i-pad for heavens sake! - but she urged caution.)

Dr. Deak told us that the use of technology has allowed the visual part of children's brains to be as well developed as a muscle-builder's biceps, allowing other areas of perception to wither, like  listening and imagining.  We can counteract some of this effect at school, by building in time for the natural pursuits of childhood: lots of physical activity, discovery and plenty of human interaction.  Read stories without showing the pictures at first, so the visual part of the brain doesn't take over and audio comprehension is strengthened, she advised.

It is actually a comfort to know that with the latest neuroscience research we can actually find out what happens to a brain saturated with apps - and not just guess.  As educators and parents who want the best for our kids, we can continue to investigate this together!  I'm pretty sure we haven't heard the last word...

No comments: