We have spoken here of balance before, and this next story perfectly epitomizes the need for that very perspective. With children of all ages returning to school this week, many parents and experts have expressed anything from mild concern to full blown anxiety over children’s alleged over-engagement with technology.

Everything from smart phones to laptops to tablets to video game devices the nitty-gritty of over-indulgence in Facebook to lowered grades to the potential health issues caused by excessive time spent online are all being considered in a kind of perfect storm of potential threats to the general wellbeing of our youth.

Now, of course, we at SOLOS recognize these dangers, too. There is sufficient evidence to demonstrate their reality as genuine threats. University studies

[.pdf] have suggested that laptops are a huge distraction, although it cannot be denied they are also useful as educational tools. Other studies have shown there is a correlation between Facebook use and lower academic performance. Again, however, there are other things to consider: perhaps the students most comfortable with Facebook are the social types who don’t normally excel academically. Perhaps meeting the social needs is a key component to the wellbeing of many of our youth. And, as we’re constantly reminded: correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation. Childhood obesity and overall physical health is also dragged out by critics of technology, but once again, it hasn’t been definitively shown that the latter is the culprit. A culprit, perhaps, but the culprit? It generally turns out that nothing is that simple. Anything from a lack of parental supervision to other cultural factors might be at play here.

The important thing to remember is that word again: balance. Children’s lives have become complex, certainly the demands on their time have increased, and it is incumbent upon both parents and other caregivers and stakeholders that the former are provided with the opportunity to both engage with the technology, but also be given proper breaks from it, whether at school or in the home. Choose activities that are both physical and social. This is not to minimize the threat, but too much of anything is probably not a great idea, and this really does boil down to common sense in the end. Tailor any limits to the individual, taking into account maturity levels, etc. And as the article itself emphasizes, show flexibility. Avoid absolutes, in other words, unless of course you enjoy adolescent rebellion.

Update: Here’s a more balanced article on this topic, more in line with the sentiments expressed above.