Today, it’s not just teenagers and adults who are struggling to find a balance between the virtual world and the real world. Even little children are often found glued to screens. Most parents in the world today are concerned about what screen time may be doing to their kids’ mental and physical wellbeing.
One of these kids, Jago, who is five years old, said, “I play killing and shooting games, but I don’t know their names.”
His mother, Mrs. Vandana Ferguson, ESL teacher said, “He sees all the children on their phones at school, or he sees his dad on his screen so he’ll say, ‘This is really unfair.'”
“We are surrounded by beauty and nature, which may not be around for much longer. Many of the middle years and early years students are not aware of what is around them because all they see is gadgets,” Mrs. Ferguson said.
However, Jago is not the only child who loves spending time on screens. “I love watching movies with little bears,” Adeline, who is also 5 years old, said. She said that sometimes she even gets to watch Youtube. But when asked if her parents allow her to use gadgets as often as she would like, she shook her head and said, “My daddy says it’s bad for the brain.”
Samiksha and Shravani, who are 6 and 8, said that they love playing video games and taking photos. But their parents don’t allow them to use any devices at home. “We’re allowed to play only when we’re on holiday,” they said.
They also said that they “love playing outside,” and that their favorite past time is “reading scary books.” They also know their parents don’t let them watch TV or use phones because “it makes your eyes go bad.”
Woodstock parents are not different from Silicon Valley parents, struggling to find a balance when it comes to allowing screentime.
The New York Times says that a lot of parents in Silicon Valley—the global technological hub—are unsupportive of their kids having screen time. Most of them believe that technology is an evil force that damages young minds. Today, kids spend a great amount of time glaring at their cell phones, iPads, or simply televisions.
Although there is very little evidence that actually proves that screen time can contribute to mental problems, there are many studies that link screen time directly with obesity and sleep disorders.
Parents are trying to do everything they can to prevent this. They have gone as far as to appoint nannies as the “phone police” to keep their kids away from gadgets while they’re away.
Some of the most significant figures in developing the technology that we have today want to keep their kids as far from it as they can. Tim Cook, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs are few of the many tech geniuses that detest screen time. Some of these tech leaders believe that the technology that they have created is now getting out of control.
However, not all parents agree with the stigma around screen time. Some parents believe that there may be an upside to having technology around. While they do acknowledge that an excess of it is bad, they think that it can also be used for good. For instance, many parents believe that technology can be a very good tool for education.
Like Silicon Valley, most parents at Woodstock agree that screentime is bad for kids. Some even say that kids should not have access to phones or social media at all before high school.
Mr. Steve Luukkonen, head of physical education, said that he will not let his daughter, Aleksia, who is five, have a phone before she’s in high school. He believes that kids should have as little screen time as possible. “During the week there is no screen time,” he said. Mr. Luukkonen believes that “students miss out on amazing opportunities” because of the presence of technology. He also thinks that kids act like “zombies throughout the day because they’re always on their phones.”
Mrs. Fergurson added, “It’s really important that children learn how to communicate and interact with one another without the use of technology.”
Ms. Renee Bowling, head of upper years, said that her two daughters, Samiksha and Shravani, are rarely allowed screen time. She believes that the absence of devices has driven her children to read, play out in the open and created a “creative and imaginative childhood that [she] always [dreamt] of.”
Mr. Will Ferguson, Jago’s father, said, “I don’t think that kids at Woodstock are usually running off to bizarre on their own, so I question their needing [devices].”
On the other hand, there are some parents who believe that with all its negatives, technology can still have positives. Mr. Agustin Silva Diaz, a Spanish teacher, said, “Of course gadgets are dangerous, and they can be very bad, but you can’t stop because of that. You need to learn how to take advantages of something while still having limitations.”
While Mr. Silva Diaz agrees that the use of technology can be very “addictive,” he still believes that its use in the educational sector has “changed the way students learn.” He thinks that kids can be given their personal cell phones around the age of 8, about the age of their daughter. However, he said that his wife and he monitor their daughter’s use of devices.
Ms. Reeta Menghani, math teacher, agrees. She said, “I understand that students need gadgets for study purposes and it is alright for [them] to have access to technology in school.”
“The thing is, you can even be killed in a car, but if you use it in a proper way, it can be quite good,” Mr. Silva Diaz said. “You need to learn how to take advantages of something while still having limitations.”
Mrs. Ferguson said, “I think we need to take a step back, in terms of how much technology we’re using, because it’s being abused. “Kids not aware of the extremity and the deviance of it all.”
Janvi Poddar is the features editor of The Woodstocker
Photo by Knema Gardner
Edited by Aarti Malhotra