'The Touch-Screen Generation'

Hanna Rosin for The Atlantic, on the impact of touch screens on a child's development:

Previously, young children had to be shown by their parents how to use a mouse or a remote, and the connection between what they were doing with their hand and what was happening on the screen took some time to grasp. But with the iPad, the connection is obvious, even to toddlers. Touch technology follows the same logic as shaking a rattle or knocking down a pile of blocks: the child swipes, and something immediately happens. A “rattle on steroids,” is what Buckleitner calls it. “All of a sudden a finger could move a bus or smush an insect or turn into a big wet gloopy paintbrush.” To a toddler, this is less magic than intuition. At a very young age, children become capable of what the psychologist Jerome Bruner called “enactive representation”; they classify objects in the world not by using words or symbols but by making gestures—say, holding an imaginary cup to their lips to signify that they want a drink. Their hands are a natural extension of their thoughts.

As I was working on my Accessibility piece for The Magazine, I often wondered about what the iPad truly meant to the development of my students. That is, I questioned in the back of my mind at times whether we were "overexposing" our students to all this technology. After all, my ECS instructors at school drilled it into us that we should limit screen time — be it television or computer — as much possible, so as to not stifle brain development in children. There's something to be said for this sentiment, but the nerd in me truly believes in the power of the iPad, smartphones, etc. In my case, of course we wouldn't let our students play with the iPads all day, but there's no denying the positive impact of the technology on them. Maria Montessori may have frowned upon all this gadgetry, but it would be disingenuous to keep children from it, because the technology is such a part of the present and the future for them. I think the key is striving to find a balance between screen time and being "off the grid", so to speak. Which is to say, allowing children to be outside or playing with analog toys.

(via MG Siegler)