The ways in which we are raising and educating children with technology are no longer sustainable.

laptop vs. books 800 x 367

Includes ten step plan to ensure sustainable futures for all children.

“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Please click on highlighted word in sentence to link to supporting research. Additional research can be found on Zone’in Fact Sheet.

Mounting research indicates technology is harming our children, yet adults continue to adamantly support unrestricted use. A frequent scene in today’s culture is adults attached to devices and detached from their children. These often neglected children display a variety of problematic behaviors, which are increasingly diagnosed as mental illness, with the unfortunate ones placed on often dangerous psychotropic medications. Sad, mad, and bad, detached children form unhealthy attachments with the ‘constant’ in their lives…technology, which they are presently overusing to the tune of 4-6 times the expert recommended amounts.

While parents and teachers think children are doing their homework, they are either social networking, playing video games, and/or watching pornography. Citing vague educational opportunities, this irresponsible trend by parents and teachers to allow young children unrestricted access to devices is sweeping across North America with devastating results. One in three children now enter school developmentally delayed, one in four are obese, one in six have a diagnosed mental illness, and one in eleven are addicted to technology. Literacy rates plummet, as technology displaces teaching. Our children have never been sicker or more brain dead than they are today, yet the tech illusion continues, placing children at the forefront of the largest experiment known to humankind.

With all this hype about education technology, Canada slipped from the top ten in the 2012 PISA to 13th, and the U.S. is ranked 27th on the world stage. Half of grade eight students do not demonstrate job entry literacy. While some children do learn from technology, the majority are overusing technology to the extent of atrophy of the frontal lobes of the brain.  Termed The Learning Paradox – the more you use the less you learn – these decerebrate children will not be our best and brightest, nor are they likely to attain future success. In 2011, 50% of North American adults aged 18-24 years live with their parents, and while some might be attending post-secondary or looking for work, many are spending inordinate amounts of time in the basement, addicted to video games, pornography, and social networking. 8% of boys aged 8-18 years are addicted to video games which depict significant physical and sexual violence. Children in elementary school are acting out rape scenes from Grand Theft Auto V, and universities are hiring rape counsellors and forming rape prevention teams due to an escalation in campus sexual violence. Age six is the average age for initial exposure to pornography, and 42% of ten year olds are actively using internet porn. Associated with porn addiction is isolation, failed relationships, and erectile dysfunction. While all school shooters are gamers, not all gamers become shooters. That said, current research indicates the profile of a school shooter is fourfold: addiction to video games, a loner, diagnosed with a mental illness and on or withdrawing from psychotropic medication , and access to guns. In addition to rape, school shootings are also on the rise.

Youth now spend the majority of their time inside isolated from family and friends resulting in fear of actual face to face social situations, and consequently rarely develop social skills necessary for forming lasting and meaningful relationships, or achieving long term employment. Self-efficacy and empathy are two salient determinants for eventual success, yet today’s children and youth live in a virtual world of narcissism and fabricated identities, resulting in feelings of failure when faced with anything real (relationship, school, work). Infants are being strapped into car seats with iPad mounts less than 6” from their face, and are forced to watch endless pictures and glaringly bright images in a virtual reality devoid of touch and human connection. Toddlers as young as 2 years of age have their own iPads, and children as young as 3 have their own cell phones. Child immersion in the virtual world is spinning out of control, yet no one seems to notice. Any attempts at suggestions of technology reduction policy go thwarted due to resounding and emphatic messages from parents and teachers to continue with unrestricted technology use. The touted promises by technology production companies has now overshadowed the perils, as public ignorance regarding the detrimental impact of technology on children grows beyond common sense or reason.

On a final note, an apparent “technology taboo topic” is whether RF/EMF radiation emitted from all technology devices is safe for adults, much less children, infants and unborn fetuses; (technology devices include not only WiFi routers and cell phone towers, but also devices which seek internet signals e.g. handheld devices such as cell phones, tablets and gaming devices, as well as laptops and mobile phones). While health authorities have ruled that the heat effects from RF/EMF radiation are within safe limits for adults (not children), new and mounting research suggests that the electromagnetic radiation emissions from cell phones and laptops are causing reduction in sperm motility and sperm DNA fragmentation, as well as acoustic tumors. Placing radiation emitting devices in close proximity to the most vulnerable members of our society, children, without clear evidence they are safe, is sheer lunacy. Consideration of existing research would indicate, at the very least, a cautionary approach regarding use of RF/EMF radiation emitting devices. Attaining correct information regarding RF/EMF radiation at this time is imperative, if we are to ensure the immediate and long term safety of our children.

Ten step plan to ensure sustainable futures for all children

  1. Literacy

Goal: raise North American PISA scores by 6 points by ensuring foundations for learning are in place prior to technology use.

Actions: no handheld devices in daycare/preschool or elementary settings (cell phones, tablets, gaming devices) and no entertainment-base technology, with no more than two cable connected computers per classroom.  Use only evidence based education technology e.g. replicable, reliable studies. Add printing back to curriculum guidelines, and teach children to print using McLean’s methodology. Children who are slow printers fail in every subject; printing output scores could be measured and tracked using below chart. Teach children to read books. Teach children math using three dimension manipulatives e.g. abacus boards, not 2-D screens.

  1. Attention and Learning

Goals: improve sustained attention on an assigned task (math) to one minute per year of age; improve student grades by 25% in one year.

Actions: enhance playgrounds to include equipment which challenges sensory and motor systems (vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile) while improving socialization. Ensure three outdoor recesses at 30 minute duration each. Teach children self-regulation to improve responsible behaviour and learning.

  1. Development and Obesity

Goals: improve motor skills (fine, gross, speech) and sensory processing; decrease obesity.

Actions: create Crash-N-Bump circuits in school gyms and recreational centres to include a variety of fun and age appropriate equipment (bouncy castles, suspended swinging devices, Barstarzz bars, exercise devices).  Reference Active for Life or participACTION websites for additional information.

  1. Media Awareness

Goal: ensure every child, youth and parent has sufficient information about the perils associated with child technology overuse.

Actions: practice responsible technology use by adhering to AAP and CPS guidelines (no technology 0-2 years, 1 hour per day 3-5, and 2 hours per day 6-18 years).Implement media awareness programs in homes, schools, health centres, and communities. Implement times without technology e.g. one hour per day, one day per week, and one week per year to reset systems. Create tech-free zones e.g. dinner, car, restaurant, bedroom. Ban pornography from internet, as did the UK, Scotland, and Iceland.

  1. Responsible Technology Use

Goals: every child, youth, parent, family, teacher, classroom, clinic, community, recreational, and institutional centre should know how much technology they are using, develop skills and interests in areas alternate to technology, and have a plan in place for reducing tech usage.

Actions: screen to determine technology usage rates, and set realistic reduction goals. Explore alternate activities and interests, and develop weekly activity.

  1. Unplug – Don’t Drug

Goals: reduce mental illness by stopping over-diagnosis and medication for problematic child behaviours. Stop use of restraints and seclusion/safe rooms in school and institutional settings.

Actions: use School Operating Safely – Child Behavior Management Policy as a first line intervention for addressing problematic child behaviour.

  1. Outdoor Play Spaces

Goal: each community ensures interesting, age appropriate, and safe outdoor play spaces to attract children, families, and classrooms into outdoor environments.

Actions: form community-based Balanced Technology Management Teams to enhance playgrounds, beaches, nature trails, and parks to include benches, picnic tables, fire pits, covered areas, outdoor adult and youth exercise equipment, adequate lighting and fencing. Consider creation of camping areas, skateboard/BMX/water parks, permanent volleyball pits, basketball hoops on every street, and large gathering centres for groups. Get funding from pharmaceutical and/or technology production.

  1. Safety

Goal: ensure child safety while also optimizing child development and learning.

Actions: form Balanced Technology Management Safety Committee to review RF/EMF data and determine appropriate actions to ensure safety. Consider duration, intensity, and proximity parameters, and reduce exposure to young children, and create RF/EMF safe zones in schools, playgrounds, and parks, as well as bedrooms in homes. Committee should consult Canadian Safety Standards regarding ensuring safe playgrounds and outdoor play spaces, and ensure adequate fall surfacing on playgrounds (at least 6” of gravel or bark mulch, or approved rubberized surface), as well as adequate fencing and lighting. Playgrounds must meet minimum criteria for enhancing child development and learning e.g. equipment which stimulates both sensory and motor systems.

  1. Attachment

Goal: improve attachment with children and reduce problematic behaviors by 50%.

Actions: disconnect to reconnect. Put the devices away when children are present. Provide eye contact and active listening. Be present, not absent. See the child’s pain, and listen to their story. Listen first, don’t act or react. Sad, mad, and bad children just want to be seen and heard. Form a parent support group, or take a parenting course to improve parenting skills.

  1. Promise and Peril

Goal:  prior to consideration of technology’s numerous educational promises, adults need to fully understand all known and potential perils, risks and hazards associated with child technology use (see Zone’in Fact Sheet for over 250 research evidenced references regarding the detrimental impact of technology on children).

Actions: prior to actions related to technology promise e.g. education, prioritize and eliminate perils, and responsibly manage balance between technology and healthy activity.

Children are our future, yet what future is there in virtual reality? Sedentary, neglected, isolated, and overstimulated, the new millennium child’s sustainability is now in question. A whole continent of irresponsible adults are placing children in an experiment of epic proportion. In ten years society may look back at this time of madness and weep, wondering why caution was not employed, and wishing they could reverse time and act to save this generation of children now lost to technology. Technology overuse by children is the most important question of the 21st century, and requires immediate attention and action.

Additional information regarding the impact of technology on children:

Zone’in Website www.zonein.caZone’in Fact Sheet (250 collated research articles), Newsletter (collated research, news, websites, books), Articles (free downloads by Cris Rowan).

Moving to Learn Blog www.movingtolearn.ca – blog for parents, health and education professionals.

Virtual Child Book – book “Virtual Child – The terrifying truth about what technology is doing to children”.

Zone’in Products http://www.zoneinproducts.com/ – Tech Tool Kit and Unplug’in Game for parents and professionals.

Zone’in Workshops/Webinars http://www.zoneinworkshops.com/ – nine half day workshops for parents, health and education professionals; also available in webinar version.

Zone’in Consultation http://www.zonein.ca/consulting/ – with Cris Rowan, in home, school, clinic, or community settings.

Cris Rowan is a pediatric occupational therapist, biologist, speaker and author of “Virtual Child – The terrifying truth about what technology is doing to children”. Cris can be reached at info@zonein.ca.

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