Category Archives: Technology

Television is Bad for Babies


The American Academy of Pediatrics says so—and they have been saying so since 1999 when they published their first policy paper on television’s effect on children.

 In November of last year, the Academy  published an update, which pertains to all devices, including ipads videos, and ebooks designed for young children. Here’s the advice they want pediatricians to give to parents:

 For children up to eighteen months to two years: No screen time, except Skyping with relatives, (The Skyping is probably for the benefit of the relatives not the children.)

 For children 2 to 5 years: No more than one hour a day, but no solo viewing. Parents should watch with the child, reacting and explaining what they are seeing. Choose “high-quality” programming.

 No screens (including adult screens) during meals, parent-child playtime, and for one hour before bedtime.

 Turn off the TV when not in use.

 So what’s the problem?

Little children love TV; it soothes them; and parents and caregivers need a break! But because the brain changes and develops so rapidly during the first three years, babies and toddlers are particularly vulnerable to the environmental impact on structures of the brain. To pre-verbal children, television is just a series of mesmerizing pictures that change about every six seconds. Makes no difference if they’re watching Sesame Street or Sunday Night Football. Since they are still forming connections between neurons, repeated exposure to this kind of experience can impact future verbal abilities and cognitive ability.

Meaningful learning from television doesn’t occur before age three, and even then, children learn best from interacting with their environment. They need to explore with their hands, engage in hands-on play, listen to words spoken to them by members of their family or their baby sitter—people who are personally giving them their undivided attention.

That’s why pediatricians advise parents to watch television with their young children, actually treating the TV like they would a book.

But if you need to pretend the TV is a book, why not just read a book to the kid instead of watching TV?

We don’t need a scientific study to conclude that books and a familiar adult reader are better for very young children than TV:

  • Physical proximity is easier when you cuddle up with a child and a book.
  • You and the child control the pace. You can linger over an interesting page or skip those that aren’t. You can talk about the story  or just be silent while she stares at the images that intrigue her. There is no  movement or bells and whistles to distract from the story.
  • And after she has learned to talk, one day you may find that she has memorized the story and will recite it by heart as she turns the pages in the appropriate place.

And with that she has begun to learn to read to herself.

(Because my babies were girls, I use the feminine pronoun, but I will make it up to the boys with a picture):


Hands On! Baby Sam and his dad.

For more on effects of  TV on early childhood development, including references, go here

As for schoolchlldren, the downside of television is the time it takes away from reading and independent play. Herb and I wrote a book about children’s folklore, an aspect of children’s play that contributes to their development. The publication of that book led to my fifteen minutes of fame, but that’s another story. mlk


Filed under Childhood learning, Education, Technology, Television

Update to “We’re Going Digital!”

Our experiment is not working out too well. Not surprisingly, we haven’t been able to find an objective digital replacement to our daily paper. But the most significant objection is that we miss the kinesthetic property of our old routine: opening the door before breakfast, picking up the paper, dividing the sections, and holding the paper in our hands, turning the pages as we read. And of course, there is the difficulty that many of us who were not brought up with the internet have in reading online. We were frankly surprised at the strength of this objection.

Oil by Herb Knapp

Oil by Herb Knapp

Today we learn that the Wall Street Journal will be laying off employees in their bureaus in Asia and Europe—the second round of layoffs in three months. according to Bloomberg News. This newspaper is not alone in scaling back expenses as they try to sign up more online subscribers as advertising revenues continue to decline across the newspaper industry. Well, we won’t be one of them. Our newspaper will soon be back on our doorstep. There is a limit to how far we can go in adapting to the modern age.        mk   hk




Filed under Digital newspapers, Technology

We’re Going Digital!

Oil by Herb Knapp

Oil by Herb Knapp

2016 was the year our television died—and not a moment too soon. We didn’t rush out to replace it, and before long, we realized there was no need because we didn’t miss it. Thus we were spared the demoralizing experience of watching frenzied talking heads spouting partisan talking points throughout the election cycle and beyond.

And now we are going to do what we would have found unthinkable a year ago: we are going to jettison the paper newspaper.

We are in the process of finding an online daily that will keep us informed of current events without too strong a partisan slant. We don’t expect to find an example of objective journalism like Mary used to teach (who, what, when, where, and why—and opinion confined to the editorial pages). That approach is dead. Yet we think we can do better than the papers that are available for delivery to our front door.

But there is something more. The internet is rich in resources that provide in-depth coverage of our special interests: art, books, theater, legislation affecting education, for instance. In comparison, a newspaper’s coverage of these subjects is limited and often uninteresting.

We aren’t the only ones letting go. Print newspaper circulation and advertising revenues are declining across the board. The New York Times has even vacated eight floors of its headquarters building in order to rent them out. The “Grey Lady” is taking in roomers!              mk, hk







Filed under Media, Technology

Do You Have to Print it Out if You Really Want to Understand It? Here’s why—

Are those of us who prefer paper books just indulging in nostalgia or does a physical page actually help the reader achieve better comprehension?

This New Yorker article by Maria Konnikova sheds light on what’s going on when we read online and what conclusions we can draw from the difference.
Because we know we have many sources at our fingertips when reading online, we tend to read faster, scrolling and scrolling, skimming, looking for key words as we go. No time to pause and mull over a passage. Reading a book or an article on paper, on the other hand, is not an open ended task. There is an end to it and we know where that end point is. We can see it and feel it in our hands. We don’t feel the same compulsion to keep going, but are more likely to give ourself time to contemplate, to reread a sentence, maybe turn down the corner of the page because we think we might like to return to a sentence we don’t quite yet understand. And I think there is an advantage to having the page in your lap and being able to look up and away as you think about what you have just read.

Also we are distracted online by hyperlinks that interrupt the flow of the argument. And, depending on what we’re reading, there may be ads here and there, attempting to pull us away from the text. And some of them, God help us, move! It’s simply exhausting and before long we’ve lost our grip.

So what are we going to do about it? For now I suppose, we can just print out what we must. But it’s critical that we figure out how to duplicate “deep reading” skills when reading in the digital environment.

The internet is a blessing, literally bringing the world’s knowledge to our fingertips. But unless we figure out how to teach readers to bring those deep reading skills to material that requires it, we are liable to end up with professionals in every field with shallow understanding of what they need to know.
If you are at all interested in this subject, the article is well worth reading.

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Filed under Technology

“The Best Laid Schemes of Mice and Men Go Oft Awry”

img_2414For some weeks now, work crews have been busy ripping out the pay phones on New York City streets, replacing them with streamlined 9.5 foot high WiFi kiosks that offer free WiFi connection, free phone calls, and USB ports for charging your various devices. Before they are done, they intend to install 7500 of these kiosks.


 With the proliferation of cellphones, the old pay phones have become obsolete. You never see anyone using them and anyway many of them don’t work.

So in the name of progress, the City has entered into a 12-year franchise agreement with a consortium that has agreed to install the kiosks at a cost of over $200 million. Here’s the deal: the consortium will pay all the costs of installation, including the laying of fiber optic cables. They will sell advertising on the large lighted panels on the side of the structures and the City will share in the ad revenues. Everybody, it seems, will make a lot of money; the City is slated to receive no less than $500 million over the 12-year period of the agreement.img_2417

 When interviewed by West Side Rag, my neighborhood newspaper, the CEO of Sidewalk Labs, one of the groups comprising the consortium, had this to say: “The big goal is addressing digital inequality. . . . Without fast access to the internet, you cannot have equal opportunity.”

 A cynic might suggest that the “big goal” has more to do with the financial arrangements rather than bridging the digital divide, but let that go.


 Now it seems that maybe they should have given more thought to just how the opportunity to access free web browsing might work out.

 Homeless vagrants have been pulling up overturned crates or cast-off chairs and couches left for the trash trucks in order to sit comfortably while they listen to music or watch pornographic movies for hours on end. This does not make residents of nearby apartment buildings happy. In fact, complaints have been so numerous that as of September 14, they have had to shut off web browsing altogether.


 Anne Roest, commissioner of the City’s Department of   Information Technology and Telecommunications admits, “We are going to make adjustments. . . . A lot of these things are things we really weren’t anticipating when we went live.”

 And that’s the way it’s always been.

Life will never go according to the epistles,

Expecting  whistles, flutes,

Expecting flutes, it’s whistles.

“You Never Know,” a variation of Da Bienes Fortuna by Luis de Gongora (1561-1625). The full poem will be found in Did You See This? Poems to Provoke the Politically Correct by Herbert Knapp, to be published very soon by Girandole Books.

Update: Did You See This? is now available from Amazon. You can read a sample at 


Filed under Poetry, Technology

I So Hoped They’d Invent This!

The Family Hub Refrigerator

The Family Hub Refrigerator

And Samsung did: the Family Hub Refrigerator! It has built in cameras that take a photo of the interior every time the doors close. The most recent photo appears on your camera. Thus we are relieved of the onerous responsibility of looking in the refrigerator before we go to the store to make sure we have enough butter or eggs.

And that’s not nearly all. You can write messages and reminders on your phone that will appear on the 21.5-inch touch screen on the refrigerator door. I suppose that you can take a picture of your kid’s artwork, pin it to the refrigerator screen and throw the real thing away. Less clutter.

And Samsung hasn’t thought of this, but you can keep a sharp eye on the leftovers wherever you may be and the minute they start showing that fuzzy stuff that indicates they’ve done their time, you can move in immediately to liberate them.

One problem though: At around $5000, it’s more than I’m comfortable spending on a refrigerator. And it doesn’t come in a 24-inch model, which is all the kitchen real estate I can devote to a fridge.


Filed under Technology

Why I Finally Broke Up With My Kindle

1 Fran_ois BoMadame Pompadourucher (French painter, 1703_1770) Madame du Pompadour


My Kindle and I have had an uneasy relationship for over three years now. I tried to love it; I really did. But I finally had to admit it wasn’t working out. Best we just call it quits.

First of all, I don’t like the way I can only look at one page at a time. Until I got the Kindle, I didn’t realize how often I fan the pages of a book, looking for information I’ve forgotten or to see if I have time to finish the chapter before dinner. I also didn’t realize that I typically read the last few words on a page as I make the turn. You can’t do that on a Kindle.

I like to write in my books. God doesn’t care. They are, after all, my books. Of course I would never write in someone else’s book or a library book—curses on those who do—but I happily scribble in mine. I like to pick up a book I’ve already read, and fan the pages looking for the stars, the underlines, and the marginal notes to myself and to the author that I’ve made in my own handwriting. I like to dog-ear pages, paste on sticky notes, insert bookmarks.

In short, I like to handle a book, that is to do a lot of things with my hands as I read.

And I like to know where my books are— and I do. They’re on the bookshelves. I can identify them by just looking at the spines. Some books are fat, some thin; some tall, some short, and they’re all different colors . I like them around me; I don’t want them dancing off into the atmosphere.

But the most disqualifying aspect of the Kindle for me is the fact that I simply cannot concentrate on what I’m reading on a screen for more than 15 or 20 minutes.

To be fair, I should acknowledge that there are certain advantages to the Kindle. You can make the type bigger. It’s easier to read lying down because you only have to hold the reader; the book literally weighs nothing. You can read in the dark; there are lots of free books available, and if you travel, you can carry any number of books with you without adding weight to your luggage.

You’re a nice device, Kindle. But let’s face it; as far as you and I are concerned, it’s over.



Filed under Education, Technology, Uncategorized