The wealthy can afford to opt out of having their data and their attention sold as a product. The poor and middle class don’t have the same kind of resources to make that happen.
Screen exposure starts young. And children who spent more than two hours a day looking at a screen got lower scores on thinking and language tests, according to early results of a landmark study on brain development of more than 11,000 children that the National Institutes of Health is supporting. Most disturbingly, the study is finding that the brains of children who spend a lot of time on screens are different. For some kids, there is premature thinning of their cerebral cortex. In adults, one study found an association between screen time and depression.
A toddler who learns to build with virtual blocks in an iPad game gains no ability to build with actual blocks, according to Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital and a lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines on screen time.
In small towns around Wichita, Kan., in a state where school budgets have been so tight that the State Supreme Court ruled them inadequate, classes have been replaced by software, much of the academic day now spent in silence on a laptop. In Utah, thousands of children do a brief, state-provided preschool program at home via laptop.
Tech companies worked hard to get public schools to buy into programs that required schools to have one laptop per student, arguing that it would better prepare children for their screen-based future. But this idea isn’t how the people who actually build the screen-based future raise their own children.