I have been feeling uneasy about the amount of time that my kids are spending on the computer. It's not like they have been spending all their computer time on the Internet playing games and watching videos. The girls do all sorts of "good" things like making movies on iMovie, listening to music, writing stories and playing school with SMART Notebook. Z spends time reading about sports and other things he is interested in, checking out his fantasy sports teams and of course IMing and video chatting (kids do not talk on the phone anymore). He also uses the computer for school work now that he is in high school. In addition to all this home use they are using computers in school. Our school has SMART boards in all of their classrooms.
A few weeks ago there was a very interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about handwriting and brain development for both kids and adults. According to the Journal:
"Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study at Indiana University published this year, researchers invited children to man a "spaceship," actually an MRI machine using a specialized scan called "functional" MRI that spots neural activity in the brain. The kids were shown letters before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and "adult-like" than in those who had simply looked at letters."
"Adults may benefit similarly when learning a new graphically different language, such as Mandarin, or symbol systems for mathematics, music and chemistry, Dr. James says. For instance, in a 2008 study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, adults were asked to distinguish between new characters and a mirror image of them after producing the characters using pen-and-paper writing and a computer keyboard. The result: For those writing by hand, there was stronger and longer-lasting recognition of the characters' proper orientation, suggesting that the specific movements memorized when learning how to write aided the visual identification of graphic shapes."
This article of course made me even more uneasy about all this computer use. It really got me thinking so yesterday I declared a computer free evening. After a bit of whining and complaining they settled down and began doing things that had nothing to do with the computer. T and D managed to play school with out using SMART Notebook while they listened to School House Rock multiplication songs on the CD player. R joined in for a while but she spent the rest of the evening reading a book about Helen Keller. Z had homework he needed to do and since he had a basketball game last night he didn't have much free time anyway. He did however get to sleep earlier than usual.
One of the things that I love most about Shabbat is the fact that for 25 hours there is no use of the computer or TV. The kids always manage to keep themselves busy (even with out being able to draw or write!). Each week they are forced to deal only with actual people an actual thing such as books and toys. I know that everyone, including the adults, greatly benefits from this break from technology. While I do think that there are many benefits from all the things my kids do on the computer there are also many benefits from not using it. I am seriously rethinking how much of their time at home I want them to be on it.