panic.jpegiPads and tablets now appear set to join ebooks, the Internet, television, bicycles, and other agents of moral decay as hate figures in the latest press-stoked moral panic in the UK. As reported in the UK Daily Telegraph, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers has issued research claiming that tablet addiction has left a generation of manually challenged British children.

The Daily Telegraph cites an ATL conference speaker who warns of “increasing numbers of young pupils who can swipe a screen but have little or no manipulative skills to play with building blocks or the like.” The ATL will also apparently be drawing up guidelines on safe tablet use and reasonable usage limitations for children, who, apparently, are growing up with fabulous computer skills but limited ability with pen and paper.

It’s worth noting also that the ATL appears to be a pretty alarmist and agenda-driven organization, issuing roughly one press release a day with titles such as “Childhood being eroded as children spend less time with families and friends” and “Pressures on teachers causing rise in mental health issues.” In the circumstances, it’s hard to be too confident about the objectivity and impartiality of their research. But still, it makes for a lovely old panic.


  1. I agree with their concerns. Kids need to learn what is learned by playing with real, physical, 3-D objects. That’s what makes up our world. There’s plenty of time for them to learn a touch interface. Few people take for than a few minutes to figure it out anyway.

    Not that that means that teachers are always right. Contra many of them, there’s also a lot to be said for playgrounds where there’s a lot of unsupervised play. You can find the specifics here:

    Note this:

    “But the results spoke for themselves, he said. The students weren’t hurting themselves — in fact, they were so busy and physically active at recess that they returned to the classroom ready to learn. They came back vibrant and motivated, not agitated or annoyed.”

    That’s the same point I made earlier about tablets. Kids are wired to be physically active, to work with things, and to test their limits. That’s how they learn. Troubles come when they don’t get that.

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