Digital learning and the longing for the perfect child: brilliant babies?

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Text comes from: Die Lüge der digitalen Bildung: Warum unsere Kinder das Lernen verlernen (2015) from Prof. Dr. Gerald Lembke, published by Münchener Verlagsgruppe (MVG), Reprints by friendly permission of the publisher.
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No baby has yet marched out of the delivery room, which starts a navigation system in the smartphone to conquer the world. Undeterred, the yearning for the perfect child leaves babies in front of the screen stunted.

baby laptop

Here writes for you:


Prof. Dr. Gerald Lembke Prof. Gerald LembkeProf. Gerald Lembke is a course director for digital media at the Baden-Württemberg University of Cooperative Education (DHBW) Mannheim and President of the Federal Association for Media and Marketing e. V.


From the author:




From Hänschen to digital Hans

Pregaphones were just a clumsy attempt to steer the development of small geniuses in an efficient way. It skillfully plays with the desire for perfection, the longing to bring the perfect child into the world.

Today the saying has taken root in the minds of many parents: "What Hänschen does not learn, Hans never learns." What this means: Nothing can fall on the youngsters early enough - and an “early development industry” (Ralph Schumacher) provides offers that prepare Hänschen for the struggle for survival.

The temptations of the early-spring industry

And this struggle is being fought more and more with computers. Therefore, the educational card always stands out in advertising, for example for the product “My first laptop”, recommended for the age group 12 to 36 months.

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This brightly colored ugliness made of plastic "offers varied play and learning fun for little explorers," says the manufacturer. The toddler simply presses colored buttons and the corresponding symbols light up on a display. "Numerous melodies and a sung song provide additional entertainment," continues the advertisement. "The agile children's mouse also promotes your child's fine motor skills."

The first laptop - good for development?

Those who do not yet buckle and press the buy button should be convinced by the following arguments: The product is good for “language development”, “sensory perception” and “urge to explore and curiosity”. All under the heading: "For your child's development". Who can say no?

But we say: no. Our thesis is: A childhood without a computer is the best start to the digital age. Paradox? Confusing? Yes, but we will show in the course of this series how this statement can be substantiated.

The genius of tomorrow?

Against this background it seems questionable what the Brill-Kids company has worked out in America: The Little Math Learning System. It is intended for babies under two and a half years - and is intended to convey mathematical conceptions of quantities using flash cards. The advertising says: The child would immediately learn “mental calculations”, which can perhaps be translated as “mental arithmetic”.

It also says: "It will be a confident mathematician for his whole life." Yes, there is actually the job title “mathematician” in the English original!

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`The longing for brilliant babies

Other products are called: Little Reader and Little Musician… No wonder that the company's claim is: “Kids are brilliant!” But such a program only hurts. It's like starting with the third floor when building a house. In this way, children are completely overwhelmed.

Brilliant babies? Then she reappears, the longing for the perfect child who wins several Nobel Prizes. Brilliant babies will later become brilliant scientists, artists or managers… If you did not come up with the idea of ​​the Pregaphone or Ritmo Pregnancy Audio Belt, you can now calm your guilty conscience.

A childhood without a computer - the best start into the digital world

We will think about how Hänschen develops into a Hans who sovereign deals with digital media - and knows how to take advantage of digital opportunities. Because for us the following applies: "What Hänschen doesn't learn, Hans can learn in peace." The buzzword of deceleration should find its way into the education debate, because digital media in particular can undermine learning processes with their speed, sensory overload and superficiality.

And especially with young children: "If you explain something to them, they will simply sleep away," explains neurobiologist Prof. Gertraud Teuchert-Noodt, "and this sleep is very important because a lot is going on in the brain." The success of learning depends on an “inner rhythm”, slowness in the learning process is an advantage. Anyone who mixes up this rhythm will no longer be able to “get school classes on the right track with an hour of yoga,” says the emeritus neurobiologist.

Medial drum fire for toddlers

But what happens as soon as the children are born? You are exposed to a media barrage that we no longer perceive in our everyday life. This is how Helga Theunert and Kathrin Demmler describe the situation in which toddlers grow up today:

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"The mother is breastfeeding while watching TV, the father is lulling the baby to sleep while researching the Internet, the big brother is taking care of the little sibling while he is playing a computer game ... situations like this are everyday family life."

Child-friendly distraction?

Sounds harmless, but it's not, as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states. According to a survey, 90 percent of American parents are already trying to keep children under the age of two happy by using electronic media. As a result, the AAP has tightened previous warnings and published recommendations on how parents should use electronic media so that children under the age of two are not harmed.

60.000 American pediatricians and surgeons have organized themselves in the AAP. In a nutshell, the doctors' organization writes: "The AAP advises against children under two years of age using electronic media."

Media Decrease Talking Time

The doctors rely on 50 studies that have examined since 1999 how television and videos affect under two-year-olds. How does the AAP get its recommendations? Let's just look at the everyday life of parents who sit in front of the TV and let their children play in the same room. The first effect is obvious, as the AAP writes:

“Infants are unlikely to follow a television program carefully if they don't understand it. But the parents are busy. The television may only be a background medium for the child, but for the parents it is in the foreground. The television distracts the parents - and reduces the interaction between parents and child. The growth of his vocabulary depends directly on the ›talk time‹ with the parents or on the time that the father or mother talk to him. Watching a lot of television in a household can have a negative impact on the child's language development, simply because the parents are likely to talk to their child too little. ”

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How do you really encourage babies and young children?

So if you really want to support your children and do something good for them, you should take one thing to heart: Do not expose them to the media influence of screens and mobile devices until as late as possible - generally speaking from the age of three.

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