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Tablet devices in our schools: iPad or Eyesore?
Let’s open the debate!
Health risks, access to adult material, loss of creative thinking skills and concentration abilities – how far are we aware of the impact of tablet devices on our children’s learning?
With a number of secondary schools across the country already using tablet devices in the classroom instead of textbooks, and more schools set to introduce the measure this September, one parent and technology expert has challenged the Departments of Health and Education, and Boards of Management to recognize the potential risks to our children and the need for an open debate on the issue.
Mark Bundschu a father of five and owner of Click.ie Computer Store in Donegal asks the question, “Has anyone considered the effect on the eyes of children of this amount of computer use? They will be sitting in front of a computer screen for up to 6 hours during school, another 2-3 hours doing their homework and, many of them will then watch television, catch up on social media, or play a computer game’.
A website has been set up as a forum to debate the issue and garner opinions via a survey. The website www.ipadoreyesore.com has been set up by parents in the hope of getting the Departments of Education and Health to sit up and give the issue the attention it deserves by carrying out a thorough assessment on the possible health risks, before any more schools go ahead and introduce the measure and school books are gone forever.
The National Eye Institute in America found that the prevalence of myopia (nearsightedness) has increased from 25 percent to 41.6 percent of the population over the past 30 years — an increase of more than 66 percent, which has been attributed to increasingly high computer use. By replacing textbooks in schools with tablet devices, and putting children in front of computers for 6 – 8 hours a day, are we creating an environment f or our children where they will be exposed to the risk of myopia?
Martin O’Brien, Past President of Association of Optometrists Ireland said ‘From a health point of view, the tablet devices themselves are not the problem, they are ergonomically user-friendly. It’s the lack of education in how to use them correctly that can lead to problems. Staring at the computer too closely, not taking regular breaks, sitting in poor lighting, not getting enough sunlight from being inside too much on computers, and sitting with poor posture; it is these bad habits that cause health problems. We need to educate parents, teachers and children in how to avoid these habits.
As well as that they need to be able to recognize symptoms should they arise. Early detection of the symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome and a visit to your optometrist can make all the difference in avoiding long-term damage and maintaining healthy eyesight’ said Martin.
Some pediatric eye doctors do however believe that heavy computer use among children puts them at risk of early myopia.
Eye fatigue is the main cause of myopia, according to Dennis Lam, a pediatric eye doctor in Hong Kong. ‘The shorter the distance between the eye and the focus, the more the burden increases on the eye’ says Lam. This burden leads to eye fatigue, which in turn can cause myopia..
Is it fair to put 12 year old children through this?
The availability of adult content to children on tablet devices is also a major issue. It is easy to get around parental controls and download adult content, be it violent or pornographic.
A recent report “Towards a Better Internet for Children”, commissioned by the EU Kids Online Network, shows that one in five children has seen dangerous content online.
With the use of tablet devices, are we now potentially introducing this content into the classroom? The teacher has no way of knowing what a child is viewing on their Tablet. Gone are the days of playing X's and O's – children now want to catch up on social media, play online games and access to the internet also makes it easy for them to view adult content.
Mark Bundschu has welcomed Deputy Charlie McConalogue’s calls for greater cohesion between government departments, schools and parents in order to face the growing risks posed by technological advancements. But says someone in Government has to show leadership on the matter.
“Is the Department of Education asleep at the wheel while the health of 12 year old children is put at risk with tablet devices? Firstly, Myopia and Computer Vision Syndrome have been completely ignored; secondly, there's the potential for children to download adult content and games accessing them during class; thirdly there are major issues around sustained concentration, whereby children will intersperse their homework or classwork with regular visits to Facebook or e-mail.
“Finally, there's the loss of creative thinking skills where everything in an E-book is dumbed down by spoon-feeding animations and explanations throughout the text,” says Mark.
An advocate of technology and in fact a promoter of embracing new technologies, Mark Bundschu suggests an open debate so that parents can hear all sides to this story.
“What we have seen is an incremental introduction of tablet devices into schools without any real strategy or thought of the big picture. While I agree that computers for schools and white boards and iPADs add value to a child’s education, I think there are serious issues that haven’t been addressed.
There is definitely a need to open up the discussion and our minds to what can potentially bring positive changes in teaching,” says Mark.
Mark says a debate on this subject is “timely” given changes in budgets, staff resources and technology. I'm stunned that nobody is showing leadership in this area, despite the fact that there are much cheaper and safer solutions available.
To join the debate visit www.ipadoreyesore.com and take the survey.
For more information on Computer Vision Syndrome, visit http://www.aoa.org/x5253.xml
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