This was the subject of a presentation at Oak Meadow School last night by Josh Golin, Executive Director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood CCFC. Josh’s organization, based in Boston, is working to improve policies and mobilize public support to limit the harmful impact of marketing strategies targeted directly at children. Josh spoke at Oak Meadow School as part of a public speakers’ series co-sponsored by our school and Discovery Museum.
Josh shared many examples to illustrate the ways “marketers use sophisticated and ubiquitous screen technologies to gain access to our children.” He explained how our society’s commercialized culture is having a harmful effect on children, adding to problems like childhood obesity, eating disorders, and gender stereotyping. An area of focus for CCFC is reducing the amount of time children spend on screens (computers, TV, and phones). The national Screen-Free Week Movement was started by CCFC, and will occur this year April 29-May 5, 2019. Concord Promise, which began in Concord MA is another organization that advocates for limiting the use of smartphones. They suggest delaying the purchase of a smartphone for children before 8th grade.
I am a strong advocate for the effective use of technology in schools, yet I also believe that all adults should be concerned about the negative impact of technology and social media on children today, and the importance of being very intentional in helping students to become responsible users of technology and thoughtful digital citizens. This includes enabling children to use technology when it provides learning solutions that significantly exceed the benefits of other tools but limiting the use of technology for the purpose of entertainment.
There is not a lot of peer pressure to have a smartphone in the middle school at Oak Meadow. I spoke with a group of middle school students this morning, and several admitted that they really don’t see any need to have a cell phone, don’t want one, and feel no peer pressure in our school to have one. I found this attitude quite refreshing. Oak Meadow middle school teachers have many conversations with our students about why cell phones are generally not used in school, and why we have a policy that cell phones are turned off and left in lockers during the day. Cell phones may occasionally be used in an intentional project– for example a smartphone was recently used to videotape a moving object and estimate its velocity. Teachers at Oak Meadow take personal responsibility for the community’s well being and sometimes that extends to issues like protecting children from the pitfalls of technology. Caring for and protecting the interests of our students is deeply ingrained in the Montessori education. It helps to define the unique culture that exists at Oak Meadow.
If you are a parent or grandparent, I highly encourage you to click on the links above to learn more about two important organizations that are leading efforts locally and nationally to protect children from the abuses of a commercialized culture.