Questions about tech and children

I like to use technology in education. But that isn’t any different than how I like to use technology in other aspects of my life. It’s a part of my life – in the classroom and out of it – and it is there to enhance whatever it is I want to achieve. But I make that choice, whether to use it or not.

The other day I was sitting in the waiting room at my chiropractor’s office, Dr. Paul Poirier at Earthway Family Chiropractic in Cornwall. As always, Jack was with me in his car seat. I was randomly flipping through a magazine and talking to a lovely lady sitting next to me when I noticed that Jack was craning his neck to see something. He was watching a slide show about back and foot problems that was showing on a tv in the waiting room. He’s 5 months old and I couldn’t break his gaze. Finally I got down right in front of him and showed him the magazine, which he did get very interested in, but it took a while to tear his attention away from the screen.

When I was breastfeeding every 20 minutes or so for the first 3 months of his life I spent a lot of time ensconced on the couch watching movies (had no actual tv plan at the time) and playing around online (google search – is it normal for a 3 month old to want to eat every 20 minutes? Is green poop normal?…) on the iPad I won through Etsy last summer. Once in a while I’d show a slideshow of black and white images that he’d try to touch and I’d giggle as he changed the size or image or whatever as he accidentally interacted with the iPad screen.

My son will obviously grow up with tech as a solid part of his life – it is a solid part of society and plays a large roll in his mother’s life. Even his father, self-proclaimed Luddite, just purchased a smart phone and is getting all geeky with his talk of megabytes and kilobytes per second and all.

The thing is, I hated watching him stare at that tv screen in the waiting room. I could understand that the flashing screen with its bright colours was fun to look at but I hated how hard it was to break his gaze. And I hated how that gaze seemed so empty.

The question is… (yes, finally getting to the point) … how do I (as a mother at home, as a teacher in the classroom) ensure that technology is used purposefully and not just something to stare at, to bemuse? I think the answer lies in modelling purposeful use of technology and sometimes the entertainment factor IS the purpose. But my mind keeps flipping back to his vacant gaze at that tv screen…