Friday, January 6, 2017

Computerized Training For Toddlers - Dear God, NO

Remember Zwift, the computer-interactive stationary trainer for social-media-obsessed indoor cyclists? Well, why should adults be the only ones who get to pedal indoors while staring at an LCD display? As if to prove the point that nobody is too young to target with lobotomizing computer screens and hamster-wheel trainers, Fisher Price has just introduced the Think & Learn Smart Cycle for the preschool set.

The Smart Cycle is a plastic stationary trainer that pairs up with a computer tablet - and might probably remind people of something like a toddler turbo trainer, or "Kiddie Zwift." Various learning/gaming apps will be made available to keep the kiddies occupied while they pedal.

The training cycle can also pair up with some web-connected televisions. Yippee.
Okay - I know that it's an unfortunate fact of life that a huge percentage of American kids today are already spending a disproportionate part of their day fixated on smartphones, tablets, computers, and television screens. No doubt they have screen-time overload. Do we really need to encourage it? And I get that having the little tots pedaling something as part of their entertainment - even a mini stationary bike - is probably better than having them lying around like couch slugs while they stare at their digital screens. But there's still something about this whole thing that I find really disappointing. Maybe even a bit unnerving. I don't believe we need another device to substitute virtual reality from actual reality.

Fisher Price claims that the Think & Learn apps will be educational (one of the games has kids pedaling down a cartoon-like road to find the letters of the alphabet, for example), and they cite research that says kids learn more and retain more when they're active. That might be so, but something tells me (and as a full-time teacher, I think I have some insight on this) that a child's learning and retention is better when they are active and interactive with an actual human being (parents come to mind -- studies show that most children have human parents) as opposed to an LCD screen. I'm also not convinced that many kids would be motivated enough by the apps to choose the Smart Cycle over the normal passive computerized entertainment.

Wouldn't it be better - physically, educationally, and socially - to actually take the kids out for a bike ride? Parents and children together - riding, talking, laughing, and interacting? I guess that would be asking too much of parents who can't break their own technology addictions.


  1. Video content; why do you think they call it "programming?"

  2. What this trainer for kids is intended to do in reality — to draw the distance between parents and children, so parents could become less distracted by paying attention to what kids do or don't. So much free time, yay!

  3. Anything to avoid actually engaging with your kids. So sad. The game of tag is banned at my kids elementary school, for fear of hurt feelings and skinned knees. Being caught with a snowball will land a kid in huge trouble. It's a strange world now.

  4. I am an educator, too. When I see the "kiddie trainer", I can't help but to think about online courses. They have their good points, but as you say, they cannot replace human interaction. And for kids, the best human interaction is with parents, whoever they may be.

    I have to wonder whether kids who ride the "kiddie trainer" will still be riding bikes as teenagers or adults--or whether it's a "gateway drug", if you will, to more electronics.

  5. If the alternative is just staring at the TV or tablet, I suppose this is ok. Multi-tasking!


  7. Better yet, have the bike be the power source for the screen(s), period.

    Once they have to earn their screen time physically, I'm betting there'll be a lot more kids just wanting to go outside....