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Technology for Kids: Foe or Frenemy? London School Bans Technology for Students Altogether

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The London Acorn School

Many parents will tell you that raising children often just seems like one big experiment, with no navigational devices to lead. While there is a world of knowledge out there from all the older parents who seem to have produced an amazing amount of attractive and brilliant doctors and lawyers who are off and running, in-laws who are trying to save us from their own mistakes, and from friends–and even strangers–who have helpful advice, only one thing is certain: everyone has an opinion. And opinions abound today when it comes to the subject of children being allowed to use technology.

At the Acorn School, an independent school in London, there’s little gray area when it comes to technology. They prohibit smart phones, computers, and television for children until they reach twelve, and they encourage parents to keep this up outside of the school zone as well. That’s right–no electronics–and no electronic babysitters even when you board a plane? Yikes! How did we ever do it before? Left to fall back on providing and suggesting archaic activities like reading, drawing, and even say, holding a conversation, outside of school, parents of Acorn students may be left with the real challenges.

Founded in 2013, the private school costs £11,000 yearly (translating to about $17,000) and was founded in direct reaction to the way technology is affecting children today. Considering the premise of their inception centers around keeping children from technology, it would seem safe to say that Acorn School administrators aren’t going to be swayed, or changing their tune, anytime soon.

“We are against all forms of electronics for small children … and only gradual integration towards it in adolescence. That includes the internet. In choosing this school, you have undertaken to support that view, no matter what you may feel personally,” reads a portion of the Acorn School charter.

Family on sofaWhile obviously this is their choice, and a strong choice for parents who choose to send their kids to school there, is it really good to leave kids in the dark in terms of technology? What happens when they are in a more ‘worldly’ situation?

“The purpose [of the ban on technology] is to allow children space to grow. So instead of turning them into consumers of technology and television, they have to learn to create their own activities. It is about encouraging creativity so that the children are active creators rather than passive consumers,” stated Andrew Thorne, a founding director of the school.

Other rules are as follows:

  • After 12, students may only watch documentaries.
  • Films are allowed only upon reaching the age of 14.
  • No internet is allowed until they are 16.
  • Computer usage related to school is only allowed for students over 14.

Obviously, parents spending that kind of money to send kids to the school are on board with the idea, as are many other folks in the world. The question is, are the parents leading by example? Are they too giving up technology, and the lifestyle of being tethered to smart phones and computers? And what about all the advantages that were given to us via technology?

While this ‘discussion’ began decades ago with the advent of TV, it has progressed in complexity along with technology. Is a little bit of usage okay? Has the TV become the lesser enemy, compared to the internet, powering up a melee of screens to melt the new generations’ brains? While it would seem that we humans certainly have a predilection for becoming dependent on and downright addicted to the screens we so love to create, it would also seem that there’s much to be learned. What about the child who is ‘staring at a screen’ because he is actually busy reading a book online or doing research for a report? What about the child who is learning to code? Animate? Make video games?


Kids learn woodworking at London’s Acorn School.

Whether or not children should be able to use technology is one question, but are those making these decisions or foisting their opinions actually even that well-educated on technology itself? As I reported not too long ago, I witnessed an educational 3D printing program going on at our local library where two elementary students were practically completely running the show on their own when I stopped by with a stack of books and my own kids in tow. They were choosing their own designs, manipulating the files, and waiting patiently as the MakerBot 3D printers put down filament layer by layer, producing their goodies.

The young makers were very excited to show off their knowledge on the Mac and the 3D printer, as well as pointing to a row of items they and other kids had made over the past weeks. Hanging out at the library on Thursday night. I must say, the scene painted a pretty healthy and educational picture, not to mention impressive. If you contrast that picture, however, to the other side of the coin in that story we followed, albeit rather tongue-in-cheek, regarding showing the older generations what a 3D printer looks like and what it can do, you realize that many people may be giving opinions without really understanding the full depth of specific technologies–or perhaps, any of them at all.

Throwing a child into the mix of technology as a teenager may also make it harder for them to get a job as they are saving up for a car (“How are your computer skills?), as they begin learning how to make resumes (are they going to type it on a typewriter or write it by hand?), as well as learning about the economic system (where would they begin to learn about stocks or learn to manage a bank account these days?). We are not a paper-based society anymore, and children are expected to work within the confines of a digital, and often wireless, world.

Perhaps the idea of moderation might be best today, where technology simply is not going away–and children will need skills for their jobs of tomorrow. While schools may lay down all the rules in the world, children are going to imitate those they trust most: their parents. Is the Acorn School asking them to lay down their arsenal of technology as well? Surely this will be a conversation as challenges arise with not only this particular school, but with the subject overall which is becoming nearly as ubiquitous as issues like feeding babies, how to get them sleep, and all the usual topics.

Discuss this Story in the 3D Printing & Education forum thread on

[Source: The Memo]

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