Saturday, September 08, 2012

The Kindle Fire Distracted My Kids From Reading

My sons were given Kindle Fires by their grandmother for Christmas 2011. It was not my idea. I consented. It was our family's first foray into any type of eReader. I thought it was time that they have access to read eBooks.

I regret it. I should have consented to the use of a plain old basic Kindle instead.

Before I tell what happened I know I am the parent and I know I supervise them. However policing the use of the Kindle Fire is very difficult and sometimes impossible. I had no reason to mistrust my children as before this they were trustworthy. They were readers who read books every night before bed.

The issue is that the Kindle Fire has Internet access.

This was also my kid's first time having web access in their bedrooms or in a portable way. They were 14 and 11 when they received this as a gift.

Our home had WiFi. They knew the access code because they had to use it daily to login to the Internet from their laptops which were never moved around but stayed put in the family office area, an area which I had full view of all the time since it was a small home with an open floorplan on the first floor.

Before the Kindle Fire was received we had a habit of each kid reading silently to themselves in bed at bedtime, pleasure reading. My kids are readers and they read a lot more books than typical American kids. However they are not bookworms like some kids I know, and like I was. Unless they are hooked on a page-turner, they would do other activities in the daytime.

After the Kindle Fire was received, they were tempted by Amazon's free app of the day which is usually some silly video game. They got into a habit of getting every single one. I would estimate that in the 10 months that we have had the Fires they have spent less than $5 on apps. This is because my husband and I said they were not to waste money every day on silly app games. So they want the free ones. Their app collection is huge and it is mostly filled with games they try and don't like and abandon after just one try.

The first thing that I realized was before bed I found out they were playing video game apps instead of reading. The second thing that I noticed was that in-bathroom reading stopped being books or magazines and instead was video game app playing. I found this out by receiving emails from Amazon telling me of the purchase of a free app that was delivered when I was at my computer and my kid was still on the can (in the middle of the homeschool day). When each kid spends an hour on the toilet once or twice a day that can equal a lot of good book reading or a lot of stupid timesuck activities using video game apps.

The last book my now 15 year old read for pleasure was finished in February, I believe. That is seven months ago. He only read it as he loved the trilogy and was excited to get the last installment in the trilogy. The last book my 12 year old read was finished in June, that is three months ago.

The owning of the Kindle Fire, loaded with books they said they wanted to read for pleasure has not resulted in them reading those books for pleasure.

The owning and use of the Kindle Fire has resulted in them reading less paper bound books also. The ones they own and say they want to read sit untouched. Libary books we check out that they said they wanted to read go unread and are returned untouched or unfinished. Even when they borrowed an eBook and knew it was expiring, my son was not reading it because he was fooling around with it instead.

The latest thing they have started to do is use the Internet while in the bathroom or for "before bed" use. They use YouTube to watch music videos or videos of people playing their favorite video games. They access Facebook. They go to bulletin board sites to have discussions about their favorite topics. There have been some attempts at age inappropriate Google image searches. I know this because I started looking at their Internet browsing history.

As to late night use, we shut the family computers down at night so they can go to bed. Yet the use of the Kindle Fire right in their beds keeps the Internet alive for them. We just didn't realize they were doing that.

We just moved and our internet provider changed, as did our physical set-up of the family's computers. My husband and I have had enough of the over-use and mis-use of the Internet and of video game apps. We see Facebook posts published at two in the morning when we thought our son was alseep. I am sickened to realize my kids are no longer reading for pleasure.

The kids have an increased reading load of both books and textbooks dictated by their online and live classes. They are reading when coerced only, at this point. The kids had been losing regular books so I decided to use eBooks. I bought the eBooks before I realized that the mis-use of the Kindle Fires would escalate during and after the move last month. Now I have a situation where the kids need to read those eBooks with their Kindle Fires but they are abusing them or faking it by saything they are reading an eBook when they are instead listening to YouTube with earbuds.

The other night my husband worked to set up parental controls though our Internet Service Provider. For now we have set the Kindle Fires to have no Internet access at all. When we buy a new eBook we will have to manually open the Internet access up, dowload the book then shut the Internet down again.

We also set up parental controls to limit what websites the kids can access during school hours and after bedtime. So far they have found a way to hack this so my husband and I have more work to do to figure that out.


Five months ago, my older son won a drawing, the prize was a lightweight Kindle (the $79 one). He actually prefers reading with this as it is lightweight and he can hold it with a few fingers. That does not have web surfing ability or video game apps to lure the reader away from the task of reading the eBook. If you want your child to have an eBook reader and worry they may wind up using it for other entertainment only purposes, I would recommend that you consider one of the basic Kindles, not the Kindle Fire. Hey, you'll save money too.


C T said...

Thanks for the warning!

Sara M said...

This helps me in my decision making for getting my 10 and 12 y/o boys a Kindle Fire. I realize also that reading from a Kindle reduces reading comprehension up to 30%, so with that being said, I will set stipulations on the use of the Kindles, should I get them one for Christmas: not allowed to take them in their bedroom at bed time and they have to continue reading paperbound books. The bathroom reading won't be an issue because none of my kids have that bad habit. Thanks for your post!

ChristineMM said...

Hi Sara, Do you have a source for the reduction in reading comprehension with eReaders? I'd never heard that.

I like the built in dictionary in the eBooks. You click the word and the definition pops up. This helped both me and my son learn the definitions right then and there instead of skipping over it and just moving on. Sometimes in a read aloud my son would ask the meaning of a word and it was hard to phrase it off the top of my head so I'd quote the actual definition from the eBook's dictionary link. This is in place on both the Kindle and the iPad Kindle app.