kid ipad

 

Recently, I have been writing about how living online, as increasing numbers of people are choosing to do, promotes a depersonalized attitude to sexuality, which contributes in turn to the mainstreaming of pornography. (It will be much more difficult to enforce laws against child porn if “porn moments” become an accepted part of childhood.)

I wish I had a simple solution. (I’ll keep looking.) But let’s start by clearing the decks of approaches that don’t work. One is, get a life and don’t worry about it. Kids are just being kids, and if you thwart them, you will harm their careers.

That would seem to be the approach of Joanne Orlando, Senior lecturer, Educational Technology at University of Western Sydney in a recent post.

First, a bit of background: Taiwan now bans children two years and younger from using digital technology, and older children, up to 18, are restricted:

The new law means that iPads, smartphones and televisions are now listed alongside cigarettes and alcohol as restricted.

The new law was originally proposed by Taiwanese MP Lu Shiow-yen, who said his intention was to protect young people by stopping them using electronic devices for more than 30 minutes at a time, The Telegraph reports.

Research published in December last year found that 7.1 per cent of the population in Asia is addicted to the internet.

From Orlando’s response at The Conversation:

These new laws, initiatives and pleas are motivated by the idea that technology is bad for children, and that only by restricting their access will they be able to grow up happy and healthy.

This suggests that by the single (and seemingly simple) act of removing technology from their lives, bullying will become non-existent, all children will be fit rather than overweight, and that mental health problems such as aggression and depression in childhood will diminish.

Sorry, Dr. Orlando. You have just used a classic straw man argument (misrepresenting someone’s argument to make it easier to attack).

No one thinks that restricting (not removing) technology will solve all these problems.

There is, however, a difference between the natural misfortune of teenage heartbreak, for example, and posting nude sex pix of oneself online because it generates lots of Likes.

That difference probably affects long term personal relationships later. How many guys want to marry a woman, if an unknown number of other guys have seen nude pix of her engaging in sex acts on the Internet? She may have done it years ago, but the Internet can be forever.

More from Orlando:

Children’s health and happiness are essential goals. However, magic wand thinking is not going to get us there. Children may be young, but this does not mean their lives are simple. There are many factors at work that would lead to a child cyberbullying, just as there are multiple factors that contribute to an individual being obese.

Technology is an intricate part of life today and there is a lot of benefit to its use. Banning or restricting children’s access has far reaching implications for their health and happiness.

Not allowing children to use devices or the internet hampers their ability to engage with the world they live in. Similarly, technology offers many educational benefits for children; school curricula around the word rely on technology for this very reason. If children’s access to technology is restricted, long term implications for children’s opportunities for learning may arise.

Okay, now we have got past the straw man. We now have a testable claim:

If children’s access to technology is restricted, long term implications for children’s opportunities for learning may arise.

So that should mean that Taiwan lags in education rankings, right?

Wrong.

From the China Post (2012):

Taiwan ranked third in mathematics achievement and second in science achievement for eighth graders in the 2011 TIMSS ratings. For fourth graders, Taiwan took fourth place in mathematics achievement and sixth place in science achievement. A total of 600,000 students from 63 countries were assessed.

As to its ranking in the 2011 PIRLS rating, Taiwan jumped to ninth place from the 22nd place it registered in 2006, marking the first time Taiwan has entered the top 10 list, according to the press release. A total of 300,000 students from 49 countries were assessed.

The average score for mathematics achievement registered by eighth graders rose to 609 in the 2011 TIMSS assessment from 598 recorded in the previous rating conducted in 2007, while fourth graders earned an average score of 591 in 2011 from 576 in 2007. Taiwan’s performance in this regard was better than Japan, the U.S. and Finland.

Also, five Taiwanese universities less than 50 years old ranked among the world’s top 100. Does anyone really believe that these and similar achievements will be reversed because children are not encouraged to spend more unsupervised time chatting and texting on the Internet?

For that matter, decades ago, would anyone have said that it makes no difference how much TV or radio a kid consumed, relative to other pursuits?

Admittedly, mathematics achievements are not the only purpose of life. But they are one reasonable predictor of a promising future. Another, of course, is parents who care enough to limit time spent on aimless surfing, chatting, texting, and sexting.

Next: Producing vs. consuming new media

 

Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.

Denyse O’Leary is an author, journalist, and blogger who has mainly written popular science and social science. Fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan’s description of electronic media as a global village...