Published here with permission from The MOORE REPORT INTERNATIONAL - September/October 1995

The Moore Foundation, Box 1, Camas, WA 98607

When is High Tech for You?

by Dr. Raymond Moore

Surely you have noticed that it is a rare child who is not intrigued by every new toy in sight. Never mind how safe, creative or sturdy, or on the other hand how dangerous, lifeless or flimsy. A toy is a toy is a toy. Adults aren't much different. They have their own kind of toys, especially if the Joneses down the street have a new motor home, swimming pool, CD-ROM, sailboat or water-ski ensemble. The 3-year-old is as fascinated with his inch-long Rolls Royce made in Hong Kong as the 30-year-old with his Corvette made in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

The hi-tech question is part and parcel of kids, and in one way or another it comes to us almost daily by letter or phone, and at every seminar. Most common are questions about computers, now almost banal and old hat to many youngsters, whose mastery of them comes much more easily to them than to us, and for those reasons is hard to control. And the video is the computer's flirtatious twin. Both are brilliant, but pose such a threat to your child's mental, physical and moral health that one day you may think they were invented by Satan; and your grandparents may help you reminisce about the "good old days" before the automatic transmission, turbocharged motor and the boulevard stop, when state speed limits maxed out at 25 mph, radio was high tech, and films were black and white.

The good old days, of course, had some problems of their own, but they seldom threatened in one swoop your child's minds, eyes... and values. Nor did they radiate high-tech waves still aren't fully understood. Seldom did the "learning aids" of the 1920s distract kids from nearly every task worth mentioning, including those that build the work ethic, manual skills, dependability, promptness, and personal responsibility in the use of time.

Until at least age 10 or 12 children's eyes are not able to handle uninterrupted hours close to a computer or video without threat of serious damage, regardless of any potential danger in their screens. (Fortunately there is emerging consensus that screens can be installed on computers that may largely allay such hazards.) Simply their closeness to the child is among the most serious and pervasive causes of abnormal nearsightedness (myopia) which, says a British study, causes up to a third of all blindness. Eminent early childhood specialist Burton White said to me one day when we were discussing the importance of not rushing a child into reading, "I don't believe that children's eyes were made for reading."

But even more important is that high-tech interference which bleeds children (and adults) of concentration and values in general, not to mention the drain on pocketbooks as demands are made for more and more videos which have a way of becoming increasingly "R" rated or worse.

A Columbia University panel of national computer authorities agreed unanimously that children have minimal exposure to computers until they can make constructive use of them, which for most should be late in their elementary school years. And it has been our experience that computer-video games are more distracting and engrossing than any of a thousand kinds before them. It is almost impossible for many families to get chores done or to control behavior without incessant arguing.

TIME Magazine says it succinctly and well, "If you sit a 10-year-old boy down in front of a video game, he's gone   body, mind and soul   into a make-believe world that's better than sleep, better than supper and ... a lot better than school.

But some argue, "My kids are learning to type." Fine, when they are mature enough, if that is their primary computer rationale. It rarely is. Others laud the potential of computer networks. Some of them are as dangerous as all the other problems put together. It depends on how you use them. One of our homeschool families found that their boys were becoming addicted to pornographic stories and words. See "Cybersex on the Internet" by John Whitehead in the July/August issue of the MOORE REPORT INTERNATIONAL.

We've even found out that it isn't always good for adults. One of our best state homeschool leaders left his family after "connecting" with a network addict who happened to be unhappy with her husband, and the computer became "better than sleep...supper"   AND FAMILY, which included four children. He ended up marrying his "new acquaintance," changing his mind about homeschooling his children and making trouble about it for his ex-wife.

Some parents contend that their families use videos for home studies. That is futile justification. Entrepreneurs are making millions of dollars on videos as "advanced" methods of teaching. For adults, perhaps, but not for elementary-age children, except for occasional documentaries, usually on nature, and specialized areas. Certainly not fairy tales or other make-believe stories. We need to let our children's creativity flourish rather than to introduce them into fantasies of others which often means submitting them to dream worlds which cloud their inventiveness, ingenuity and originality. Among the enemies of childhood creativity few, if any, programs are as costly in money, achievement and originality as general education video courses.

Of course, God's natural laws are what make technology possible, but most of us who are well- acquainted with computers recognize that they may be both a blessing and a curse. We need to consider the danger of the potential de-humanizing effect of anything that removes "human beings from talk and touch, to text and tech." Alden Thompson of Walla Walla College writes in the Gleaner, "At each stage we have moved farther away from each other. Instead of a healthy interchange with real people who laugh and cry, sing and tell stories, the message now comes through plastic, metal, and glass. With our heads wired for sound and our eyes riveted to a screen, we hug machines instead of people   then wonder why the world is such a lonely place."

Hi-tech? Of course much of it has value when properly used, but like handing a youngster a motorcycle or gun, you'd better be sure lest you cost him his life. Even Scripture says in foretelling signs of the end that "Many shall run to and from, and knowledge shall be increased." For Christians   or those of other religions   that is one of the ways to spread their gospel. Yet, remember that even the Devil uses "every good thing" for his own purposes. Don't fall for his traps.

The main thing is that books, computers, games or anything else should never get in the way of our singing, praying, and sharing with each other. Maybe God didn't teach Adam and Eve to read because He wanted them to have time for each other and for Him.