Taiwan Nannies Rule: Parents Can't Decide How Much Time Their Kids Spend With Electronics

from the mama-government dept

The nanny-state arms race marches on, apparently. Whereas the previous intersection of overbearing government and technology has resulted in politicians attempting to ban the use of headphones while walking across the street, governments introducing all manner of silly policies in the name of “protecting the children”, and even municipalities attempting to run psy-ops on citizens to keep them from smoking, Taiwan appears to be taking an even more direct approach with plans to fine the parents of children the government has deemed spend too much time with electronics.

Under rules passed last Friday by Taiwanese politicians, children under the age of two should be completely banned from using electronic devices, Xinhua, China’s official news agency reported. Meanwhile under-18s should not be allowed to “constantly use electronic products for a period of time that is not reasonable”. It means electronic products are now listed alongside cigarettes and alcohol as potentially dangerous vices.

And you can see their point, assuming you’re a crazy person. Because electronics are tools primarily of communication and productivity, even if they’re also used for entertainment, and government intrusion on young people’s ability to communicate, learn, and be entertained is so far removed from alcohol and tobacco that one wonders how the argument was made with a straight face to begin with. The prospective “too much time” part of this legal equation has yet to be ironed out, but the brainchild for the law is, shall we say, more than slightly aggressive on the topic.

The new regulation is the brainchild of Lu Shiow-yen, a Taiwanese member of parliament who said his intention was to protect young people by stopping them using electronic devices for more than 30 minutes at a time. Parents who break the rules can be hit with fines of up to about £1,000 although it remains unclear how authorities will determine what amount of time is unreasonable.

There’s a million reasons why this is stupid, but I’ll boil it down to one specific reason: baseball. Baseball is huge in Taiwan. Baseball is enjoyed primarily on television and streaming electronic devices. And baseball, for all its wonderful aspects, takes roughly as much time as it takes for a mountain to form in the Nebraska prairie. Thirty-minute stretches of time as a limit effectively outlaws youngsters watching baseball. Put in that context, and really any other context, these sorts of artificial limitations on the electronics that dominate our lives (in a good way) are ludicrous.

Expect either the backlash here to be huge, or the law to go largely ignored. Either way, this is a political non-starter.

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Comments on “Taiwan Nannies Rule: Parents Can't Decide How Much Time Their Kids Spend With Electronics”

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24 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

'Forget engineers, what we need are more janitors'

A not so minor side-affect of this would be people much less tech savvy than those in other countries, leaving them at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to any job involving computers or other electronics.

Now, they could learn those skills in school later on in life, but having a childhood basically bereft of interaction with computers and other electronics will make the learning curve more of a learning cliff, and they’ll be forced to spend good amounts of time just catching up to those in other countries regarding the subject before they can even begin to learn more advanced applications and uses of technology.

Such strict limits would also hamstring them in another way as well. People solve problems, and come up with ideas, using what they are familiar with. To someone familiar with computers, it would be second nature to use them to solve a problem, or come up with an idea involving them.

On the other hand, to someone with only a passing familiarity with regards to computers and similar tech, they are much less likely to even consider the place of computers with regards to solving problems, or think up new uses or advancements of technology involving them.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s not really about being able to help anyone..

See it for what it really is, a tool for a person in power to wield over someone head!

Remember the Glassholes? This is the same thing! Someone said there otta be a law and got their wish. Now a gubmint thug can come over and say… you have consumed your allotted gadget time there you juvi-delinquent now you get to experience the back of my squad car, or van… or whatever Taiwan uses.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The more Taiwan is like China

I thought Taiwan was trying to break away from China, but doesn’t have the courage to issue a formal declaration of independence. The US has never had the courage to formally recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation.

For sure China considers Taiwan a Chinese province, but any attempt to exercise control might result in a backlash from both their citizens and the international community. A backlash that China doesn’t want.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The more Taiwan is like China

The US is only currently picking on easy targets in the Middle east. We have misplaced our spine some 3 or 4 presidents back at least.

Reagan has some spine, but he still showed the an Illegal run on the borders are a fine sight to behold for the businesses that need cheap slave labor.

anon coward says:

link to learning disorders

Some researchers are apparently investigating the link between gadget use and some learning disorders as well as ADHD. Check this out: http://faculty.winthrop.edu/hinera/crtw-spring_2011/themythofmultitasking_rosen.pdf

There’s no concrete evidence yet (because two years old toddlers is not your dream experiment group), but why risk it (some people and some Taiwanese politicians say)?

Personally I’m undecided on this issue, but here’s their perspective.

anon coward says:

Re: Re: link to learning disorders

That’s how science works, doesn’t it? A researcher begins to investigate. Then there’s one study. Then there’s two. Then before you know it, a feckin Journal of ADHD Causing Tablet Studies.

The case here is not comparable to the Jenny Mccarthy’s evil crusade. The benefits of early gadget use are also not proven. So there’s a claimed benefit, and a claimed hazard.

Why take the risk?

Here’s a not-really-scientific observation without any control for other independent variables: Since I got a smartphone, my attention span was reduced significantly. I hear many friends making the same observation as well. Yes, it can be caused by other factors. For instance I grew older since buying the smartphone. Those should also be investigated.

But on a parallel vein, there’s no proven benefits of using gadgets at the age of 2. So both sides are acting on hypotheses. One side (A) claims that using gadgets early on makes it likely to become Bill Gates. The other side (B) claims that using gadgets early on causes ADHD. There is no concrete evidence supporting either.

Pascal’s wager says that we should listen to (B), while continuing to investigate both claims.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: link to learning disorders

“That’s how science works, doesn’t it? A researcher begins to investigate. Then there’s one study. Then there’s two.”

That’s right. I’m just saying that at the start of the first research project, all that exists is a hypothesis. It’s a bit silly to make any life (or policy) decisions based on such speculation.

“Why take the risk?”

What risk? There’s no evidence of risk at this point. That’s pretty much my entire point. Of course, if you want to restrict the use of such devices by your own children, there’s nothing wrong with that. Parents make decisions like that based on personal comfort levels all the time.

But that doesn’t mean there’s an actual indication of risk, and certainly doesn’t mean that such restrictions should be mandated.

“Pascal’s wager says…”

Pascal’s wager is a terrible thing to cite — it’s a BS argument based on a poor attempt at applying logic.

Anonymous Coward says:

I could see unreasonable being in the range of the ten or more hours without a bathroom break that leads to blood clots forming in the leg and killing the person upon standing. Two year olds typically don’t have the mental fortitude to push their bodies that far and ignore basic human processes. Even then, there are easier and better rules that cover such negligent parental behavior.

This comes back down to the mentality of “I don’t like the way YOU do things, because it’s not the way (I think) I do things.” With the various excuses how it’s different for the person making the rule such as it’s ok because their an adult, it’s ok because it’s for their job, it’s ok for their kids because it’s different some how. Although it’s possible they honestly believe that the 30+ minutes itself is bad somehow, likely they also know somewhere in the back of their heads it is holding their own kids back so to make sure no one else gets ahead it’s best just to hold everyone back too.

Anonymous Coward says:

You do realize that kids under 18 usally dont use “electronic devices” for anything other than shit-tier, dumb conversation between at most five other kids. Often when they are in the same fucking room.

Sure, they should learn how to use them but when they sit next to eachother and they still use their phones to “talk”, do you really think thats ok? This crap is addictive and since their parents clearly dont give a fuck about them (why else would they need nannies), i really dont see the problem with taking their electronic crap away for a few short minutes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You have caught the authoritarian disease, where you insist everybody behaves as you would have them behave. Texting and other textual conversations have an advantage, you can have a private conversation with another person in the crowded room. It also has the advantage that conversations are not easily overheard by parents, or other authority figures, who may be lurking outside the room.

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