During my lecture this morning at Simmons College, a phrase occurred to me which summarizes an approach parents can take to choosing technology for their children.
The phrase is “Least Feasible Technology” (LFP). It is a philosophical and practical approach in which parents begin by figuring out what their children need to accomplish and then look for technology that will assist them in accomplishing just that and no more.
For instance, one example is learning to read. The least feasible technology for doing that is a printed book, which contains words and/or images, and does nothing else. A book does not beep, flash lights, distract with other apps, or play video. The sole function of a book is reading. And the ability to concentrate on a single task is an increasingly valuable skill.
Similarly, if you want to be able to call your older elementary or middle school student, but you are concerned about the possibility of cyberbullying, sexting, access to adult materials, and so on, then consider the possibility of a phone that only makes phone calls. Not surprisingly, they are not easy to find, but Jitterbug offers a phone for seniors that would work well for younger children.
There’s no question that adoption of the LFP philosophy is anathema to most kids, and it is not easy to implement. But there is no question that the feature explosion has led to a situation where kids have access to technological tools that vastly exceed their maturity and judgement.
As time permits, I’ll update this with some additional thoughts and suggestions.