Sunday, November 6, 2011

Keeping up with The Times: The "app gap"

I logged on to blog and what do you know?! I never posted this little screed on the "app gap." Give a hint of what a terrific couple of weeks it has been here in the land of 2 academic careers + 2 kiddos = 2 much 2 handle.


At the moment, I am standing at the corner of Conference Paper Hell and Grading Nightmare, but of course, I have had my attention diverted.

StraightMan tells me last night that I ought to blog about this article in the NYT: "Screen Time Higher Than Ever For Toddlers." The article reports on a new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Despite the American Academy of Pediatrics’ longstanding recommendations to the contrary, children under 8 are spending more time than ever in front of screens, according to a study scheduled for release Tuesday.

The report also documents for the first time an emerging “app gap” in which affluent children are likely to use mobile educational games while those in low-income families are the most likely to have televisions in their bedrooms.

The article then goes on to quote a survey researcher who notes that "parents increasingly are handing their iPhones to their 1 ½-year-old kid as a shut-up toy. And parents who check their e-mail three times on the way to the bus stop are constantly modeling that behavior, so it’s only natural the kids want to use mobile devices too.”

That, to me, is the problem that ought to be the concern here. Instead, the term "app gap" seems to problematize that children from lower income households have unequal (less) access to apps.

The article quotes parents who download apps for their kids, justifying the amount of screen time that they permit:

"I’ll lie to myself that these are skill builders,’” said his father, Keith Lender, who has downloaded dozens of tablet and smart phone apps for Jaden and his 1-year-old brother, Dylan. “No, I’m not lying,” he said, correcting himself. “Jaden’s really learning hand-eye coordination from the golf game, and it beats the hell out of sitting and watching television.”

I find it interesting that this parent both expresses awareness of the criticisms about whether or not screen time is building skills - then repeats the claim about hand-eye coordination that has floated in public discourse since every 6th grader I knew (except me) had an Atari game system at home. In a moment of resignation, he remarks that at least he is not letting his kids watch television. Which BTW the AAP reports is the dominant medium in lower income households.

I leave open the possibility that screen time involving apps might be qualitatively "better" than TV, but you will need to convince me. (Dadgumit, I am a scientist!)

Look, even the nation's chief technologists are not convinced, as the NYT also reported, in an article on the Silicon Valley school of choice - a Waldorf school (!):

The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.

But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.

iPad as a form of class warfare? You decide.

No comments:

Post a Comment