By Lee Binz
Set Logical Technology Boundaries to Increase Learning
Have you struggled with a technology balance in your homeschool? This article is a brief excerpt from my new book, TechnoLogic: How to Set Logical Technology Boundaries and Stop the Zombie Apocalypse. Look for it on Amazon!
The recent shift of child experiences from physical to digital has turned child development upside down. Is there too much technology in education? The research shows problems with excess technology in education, while schools continue to ask for more and more funding for technology, and homeschoolers use increasingly more online courses.
Excessive technology in education may create a child who can’t learn. This is the learning paradox. The more digital media they use, the less likely children are to learn. There is no research that shows educational technology does anything other than entertain children, yet an educational shift is happening without evidence. The more schools invest in technology, the less likely kids will pay attention and learn.
Technology in education is not evidence-based. Multi-tasking on a laptop or digital device distracts both the user and fellow students. Print reading is superior to screen reading.
Technology use guidelines recommend no more than two hours of screen time daily for high school age students. With the amount of technology being used in education, children can easily end up spending several hours per day with digital devices overall. This much technology must demonstrate positive outcomes or the efforts to include technology in the classroom results in wasted money.
Technology can make it more difficult to learn and retain information. Balance is the key. Banning helpful tools is not the goal, after all. Instead, education means ensuring that children can read, write, and do math, even when not supported by technological devices. Technology is at its most useful when it is thoughtfully added to the curriculum in a meaningful way. If it does not enhance the learning experience then it is a distraction.
Supervision is necessary in combination with firewalls to filter online sites such as video games and porn sites. The parent of a child in an online school could have no idea what the child is doing online unless sitting right next to them. Firewalls offer some protection when the parent is not sitting alongside, but they are not a foolproof, teen-proof solution.
These programs and applications can allow you to pre-approve websites your child can visit. However, teachers have inadvertently referenced inappropriate websites, sometimes porn, and a simple click from a lesson plan can steal a child’s innocence in any unsuspecting family. Families with bright, well-rounded children can benefit from online courses, but you need to balance them carefully with parental supervision and involvement, to make sure your children gain quality educational value from the program and don’t fall off the tracks.
Avoid choosing online education due to social phobias. Leaning on technology can make matters worse. Choosing online school to withdraw your child from society avoids the problem, will not be a solution, and cannot be healthy. Your child may think, “I don’t get along with kids. I don’t have any friends, so I’m doing online learning.”
This avoidance can affect their future. If they can’t connect with other kids now, when they’re in school, they will have much less chance of forming meaningful relationships when they get older. Instead, you may want to provide the safety and security of interpersonal interaction through homeschooling your children, with the option of eliminating reliance on technology, and accentuating positive social interactions.
Carefully consider the age of your child before choosing education through technology. Age and maturity are important factors to consider, as suggested technology guidelines make clear. While some online learning may be appropriate for a teenager, it would be completely wrong for a six-year-old. Younger children need more movement, touch, connection, and nature. Older children need less. Children who are developmentally delayed or cognitively delayed also need more movement, touch, connection, and nature, and less “tech.”
Cris Rowan uses a balance beam metaphor to describe appropriate technology use. On one side of the balance beam are those four critical factors: movement, touch, connection, and nature. On the other side is technology. For young children, you want to load the balance beam so the four critical factors get much more emphasis. As your child gets older, it might level out so they get equal amounts.
Consider your child’s age, ability, and maturity. One hour of online class time balanced with one hour of face time might be appropriate for older children in middle school or high school. But for elementary age children, this would still be too much technology. Children of all ages, particularly elementary age children, need to go outside and be with people. They need to be hugged. They need interaction. The research strongly suggests they need to go out and play!
This should not be news to anyone. People are in danger of forgetting key truths that have long been considered common sense. Recess has always been a key part of elementary education. It is a critical part of children’s overall development; it isn’t only to get the kids out of the teacher’s hair for a while.
Studies show that children who move a lot are better able to pay attention and learn. They become measurably smarter. One high school improved test scores by adding physical movement, with the addition of an hour a day on treadmills. They observed huge differences, after only four months. This is more evidence that kids need exercise.
Excessive hours of digital technology use can occur among homeschoolers as well. Homeschoolers may rely on many online classes and supplemental activities involving technology, sometimes exclusively. Kim McDaniel recommends that your child get one hour of face-to-face time for every hour of online class time.
Try to find a balance of technology, print, and hands-on learning. If your child takes many technology-based classes, consider ensuring they read print books. Carefully restrict other technology use each day. Limiting non-educational digital media could provide balance. If you're a homeschooler, you need to be intentional about your children’s friendships and other face-to-face interactions. You need to ensure there is adequate quality time with peers, with neighborhood friends, in co-ops, or in church groups. Adding exposure to digital technology through online classes may make the balance even harder to achieve.
Giftedness in Technology
Balancing technology becomes more complicated when children have special talents in computers, programming, and digital technology. These technologically gifted students can easily overuse digital technology and develop a serious problem. Their gifts and passions can lead to parents being permissive about screen time without restrictions. However, the developmental needs of gifted children are no different from regular kids. Even gifted children need movement, touch, connection, and nature.
If you are the parent of a gifted child, you must conscientiously focus on the big picture and development of your child as a whole person with a balanced life. Excessive screen time can sabotage career objectives and discourage long-term success. A broad education will allow giftedness to come out in a variety of different ways, and ensures your child has the diversified education needed in order to achieve greater success.
What do you want for your child? Most parents want them to be happy. Parents want children to be successful in whatever they do. This goal will be achieved through balance, and teaching children how to achieve balance with technology. The recipe for building such a child doesn’t change with shifting technology. Children still need the same ingredients to be happy and healthy: movement, touch, connection, and nature.
Autism Spectrum Disorder and Technology
Kim McDaniel says that children with autism spectrum disorders are more likely to have difficulty managing screen time. They are more vulnerable to developing problems with digital addiction. There are several reasons, with biological and psychological roots. From a child development perspective, any child who has difficulty with real life social interactions is more prone to turning to the computer to satisfy their social needs. The basis of empathy development, emotional resiliency, self-esteem, and overall good mental health comes from relationships with others. For those on the autism spectrum, their difficulty recognizing the undertones of language – subtle humor, sarcasm, contempt, flirting, and persuasion – also make them more vulnerable to bullying, peer pressure, and manipulation.
Research shows another side of the story. Overuse of technology can cause symptoms that mimic autism. Children can display the behaviors of someone with autism; they have been so disconnected from people they lose some of their social skills. Perhaps symptoms of autism may improve for some children when they increase social contact while at the same time decreasing technology use.
Key Consideration in Education
Children need the maximum amount of face-to-face learning and physical activity. Education should include technological, digital, and online learning only as a supplement, not as a primary source of instruction. Technology in education is like adding salt to your food. Don’t overdo it or you might end up with some serious health problems!
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It's a new world
Parenting has always been challenging, but these days the hardest parts of parenting involve navigating around ever-changing gadgets and technology. Whether dealing with phones, tablets, computers, social media, or video games, parents need help managing this new electronic environment. Like brushing their teeth and eating their vegetables, kids need to know why healthy media habits are important.
Wake up! Pay attention!
Misuse of technology is a real and present danger that can lead to a zombie apocalypse in your home. This eye-opening book offers hope for parents battling the technology monster. Learn how to deal with the harsh reality of technology in your home and how to set technology boundaries for healthy and happy children and teens.
“Lee Binz has hit the nail smack on the head for clearly identifying the impact technology is having on our children, families, and schools, and what to do about it. TechnoLogic demystifies a very complex issue, helping readers to sort out problem areas and identify solutions. TechnoLogic is for everyone who cares about creating better lives for children.”
~ Cris Rowan, Occupational Therapist and Author of Virtual Child
“Lee Binz deftly guides parents about the dangers that accompany gaming and internet addiction in this valuable book. Follow her advice, end the power struggles with your children and teens over their technology use, and be well on your way to rebuilding harmony in your family life.”
~ Kim McDaniel, M.A. Family Therapist, Author, and Parent Coach
The HomeScholar Gold Care Club
The Complete, Personalized Homeschool Support You Need
Homeschooling high school is the greatest educational gift you can give your children. They will be better prepared for college and for life because of the decision you made to give them this precious gift. For most parents, the greatest obstacle standing in the way of your decision to homeschool high school is a lack of confidence that you can do the job in a way that will give your children the preparation they deserve.
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Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee's FREE Resource Guide "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School" and more freebies at www.HomeHighSchoolHelp.com.