Recently, a local paper, the Northwest Herald, published an article entitled “How young is too young to get a cellphone?” in which preschool and day care teachers touted the benefits of cell phones for children as young as 4 or 5. Da Vinci Waldorf School early childhood teacher, Donna Brooks, responded with the following letter to the editor:
The recent article on children and cellphones (What age is right?) was a poor example of journalism and read more an ad for cell phone companies. In trying to answer the question posed by the title, the author should have consulted with child development experts or the American Society of Pediatrics. These sources could have provided a research-based recommendation for parents. One of the mothers cited, in justifying her 4-year old’s use of a cell phone said, “It’s important for young children to experiment with all sorts of things.” Taking the “experimentation” analogy a bit further, we would not agree that it is important for them to “experiment” with drugs at a young age or driving the car. There is a developmental time and place for the use of technology.
As an educator for over twenty-six years and a Waldorf early childhood teacher, I stand firmly in the protection of the young child and the importance of the REAL world in nurturing capacities for healthy physical, emotional, and social development. We have just concluded “Screen-Free Week,” a national movement to encourage families to assess how much time is spent with a screen in one’s face being “entertained,” and the challenge to do without for one week. Every family should approach this issue with intention and a sense of what habits are being instilled in the young child. If a child is not old enough to play far from home without adult supervision, that child does not need a phone. A child should be old enough to self-monitor and have some capacity for “netiquette” before being given such a device. I encourage the Northwest Herald to take up this topic of electronic media with more courage and foresight next April, well in advance of Screen-Free Week in May 2015. A cell phone company marketing to the preschool child cares little about society and even less about the child.