Technology & Reading
As a librarian who grew up glued to the “tube”, and who currently spends more time with computers than books, I sometimes feel guilty when I review programs designed to get families to limit technology in their households. “Don’t let a TV act as babysitter” they proclaim, and yet my babysitters were Mr. Rogers, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and the dynamic crew from “The Electric Company”. Since I grew up to be a librarian I don’t think I was ruined by the experience, but continue to struggle with the impact of technology on the reading habits of our young. There are some basics that you can try if you feel that teens are choosing technology over print more often than you are comfortable with.
- TVs should be for watching, computers for specific tasks. Neither should be overly used for “surfing”.
- TVs and computer use CAN be a joint activity now and then. Try to find a TV show that you and your child both enjoy. Watching it together and talking about it can be a low-key way to increase communication levels. Computers can be a little more tricky to connect on, but there are still options. Teach each other new skills on various programs. Share a website! One parent found a “comic of the week” site and began a correspondence with her son. She emailed him at school with the cartoon, and he eventually began emailing her back with the “joke of the week” that he discovered on another site.
- Help young people discover the commercial aspect of the Internet and television. Make sure that teens understand the difference between website content and pop-up ads, and that they are clear on the concept that ANYONE can put ANYTHING on the Internet. When television shows do product placement or market music, point it out. Instead of running to the fridge during commercials, watch which ads get placed with which shows, and discuss with your kid why that is.
- Make time for all things. It is OKAY to make and enforce rules designed to balance the amount TV and computer time with other activities – family time, outdoor time, even reading!!!
- Find the good, and set the example. There are worthwhile programs on television and educational sites on computers. Rather than insist your child watch a documentary on PBS, watch a few yourself (they might just join you). If you use the Internet as an information source, so will your kids. Let them know which sites you go to regularly and why.
- Start early. Attitudes about technology are being formed very quickly with many of our kids, who are exposed to the mass media from infancy. The more you do early on to encourage “thinking” use of television and computers, the fewer battles there will be as they age.
- Take it in stride. Television and computers offer a wide spectrum of materials. We all deserve a little “fluff” now and then.