Prior to the invention of the television in 1927, the computer, smart phone, and other electronic devices a child never had the opportunity to interact with these machines. They did not exist. Today is different: they are almost everywhere. Never in the history of the world has there ever been as many electronic devices and electronic screens. These devices are available to almost everyone including newborn children. Many parents today are substituting an electronic screen, TV, smart phone, computer, etc., for their own personal faces. Some parents are turning over some of their parenting responsibilities to machines. This brings to mind many questions including: But what are baby children learning from the screens and technology? What are the unintended consequences of children looking at a screen versus a human beings face? Is there a dehumanizing effect due to a loss of human touch? Is there causation between early childhood screen viewing, the substitution of machines for parents, and problems caused later in life due to a lack of human intimacy? What is the connection, if any, to Postmodernism and the lack of face-time with young children? Is there any causation between early childhood screen viewing time and the decline in SAT scores or the failure rate on the CBEST exam? What does our future look like? What are parents teaching their children when they replace their face with a picture or cartoon on a screen? Do parents know what they are doing? What needs to be done to improve early childhood language learning? Is there any connection between today’s consumerism, dehumanization, and objectification of people and the early childhood substitution of a machine for a home face?
According to both the video and the text the human element is vital for young children to learn to speak a language. On page 191, “…deaf parents who gave their normal-hearing son ample exposure to TV and radio programs, the boy did not acquire an ability to speak or understand English.” This substitution of a screen for a human face is unintended child abuse and neglect. I do not think that the parents want to or intend to harm their children with a screen, they may even believe that they are educating their children with exposure to a screen story. However, I must admit that, I was surprised by the lack of any early childhood language learning from the TV or radio programs. My assumption is probably not any different from the parents who use the TV as a baby sitter and to occupy their children’s time. The vital importance of the human touch in a child’s language education cannot be overstated. It is also not widely known, practiced, or appreciated.
Parents need to be made aware of this fact: young children do not learn “to speak or understand English” from the radio or TV. or other technologies. Young children need their parents undivided attention and focus on learning to speak. This is not going to be easy for stressed and over-worked parents, but the reward will be better educated children and a brighter future for them. Substituting screens for human contact at any age may be detrimental to a person’s emotional and physical health. What is the lesson that children are learning when their parents substitute a screen for their personal face? Is the message that their human child is equivalent to a humanoid machine?
From birth the child’s language learning curve looks like a graph of a waterfall: It only goes down from birth. Is does not go up. This fact, and many others, regarding early childhood learning is not well known or appreciated in our society. The idea that a child learns more as they get older and go to school is false. Our human survival instinct requires us to learn to communicate first in order to survive. Prenatal care and health, especially FAS/FAE and FASD, are not emphasized nearly enough in our society. And almost no one in the general public knows the direct connection between a mother’s age during her childbearing years and autism and other birth problems including fertility. Time cannot be replaced, postponed, or purchased. Once time is lost it is gone forever. A child’s first days are not only precious they are irreplaceable.
Parents are not putting their children’s language learning education first when they sit their child up in front of a TV. or computer screen. Face-to-face contact is vital to early childhood language learning. The future belongs to the educated and loved. We owe it to our children to give them all of the love, opportunities, and face-to-face attention that we can.