Anyway, I'm wondering, for those of you who strive for a media free environment for your kids at home, how do you deal with this?
However, I will warn you against taking such a hard line against them. My daughter does not have extensive computer experience and is at a disadvantage and requires a lot of hand holding now in middle school because many assignments require use of computers...
I think you should talk to the kindergarten teacher about how much time the kids will actually spend on those computers in the classroom. I would be surprised if it's a lot. It's hard enough to wrangle 25 5yos into a circle and get their coats hung up and seated at their tables. I can't imagine computer instruction is going to get a whole lot of classroom time, regardless of how many there are in the classroom.
I share the OP's views completely. My husband is a Computer Science Professor, and I am a physics professor. We use computers all the time for work and leisure, and we even have six computers at home, but we don't let our daughter use computers. There are much more valuable things that she should be learning, and they don't come from the computer. I have yet to see anything on the computer that teaches a skill or concept better than the old fashioned way.
For daycare/preschool, I took the hard line. I was paying a lot of money, so I had no problem calling the shots. No computer for my dd, even though the other children were using it. 3 year olds, and 4 year olds. (Some of the teachers in the day care even agreed with me.) The daycare respected my wishes without any trouble, and they always managed to find something else to distract my dd without her realizing that she was singled out.
Every single elementary school district touted how great it was to learn technology early. I am a big believer in public school for my family. I do not have the patience to homeschool. So after much agonizing, I decided that computers was not the hill I was going to die on. So I kept my mouth shut. I believed the reassurances of the various principals who said that there was so much curriculum that needed to be covered that there was no time to cover anything that did not directly relate to the state standards. Well, maybe so, but everytime my dd's K class had computer lab (one hour every week), I helped out with the class.
First of all, everything that was done on the computers was useless and inappropriate for the children's learning, in my opinion. Most parents would disagree, but I have my opinion. For example, most parents would think Starfall, google, and wikipedia a wonderful educational lesson for Kindergarteners. I thought it was dumb, and that the children would have been much better off running around outside for an extra hour of recess.
I also noticed that one child had a lot of trouble using the computer. I believe a big part of it was an undiscovered vision problem, but also some fine motor skill issues. I tried to tell the teacher about the vision problem hampering the child's computer abilities, but the teacher brushed it off and blamed it on the fact that the child had not had any prior computer use.
Well, what about my dd? My dd had no prior computer use, and to this day is not allowed to touch a computer outside of school, and yet she was the best in her class at using the computer. It wasn't because my dd somehow has special aptitude in technology. It was because my dd was able to read everything on the computer screen, and no one else in the classroom could. I mean, if you have 24 children who can't read try to google something and read wikipedia, you are going to have absolute chaos.
I also agree with the OP. I am a middle school teacher in a public school, and my son is a Kindergartener in a public school. Sure, the students at my school are much faster than me at finding web sites, much more well-versed at accessing social media, and know all the latest computer games. However, they are so technology dependent that some of them have to pull out a calculator to do basic algebra, or even add negative numbers. I teach math and science, and while I do use technology selectively for certain tasks (I've got a group of seventh graders this year that is really not satisfied with my explanation of the Bohr model for electrons in an atom, so I let them go independently to a website that teaches the orbital model, which is more advanced), I think that kids more often need to use their brains than an electronic brain, and that is often best served with paper, pencil, beaker, graduated cylinder, stopwatch, dry erase board, etc.
My Kindergartener has troubled socializing. What does he run to during choice time? The computer. He would do far better learning how to play with his peers.
I have not yet addressed this with his teacher- I am waiting until I talk more with his special ed teacher about his social goals this year for his IEP.
Anyhow, that's my $0.02 :) .
You said it much better than I.
However, they are so technology dependent that some of them have to pull out a calculator to do basic algebra, or even add negative numbers. I teach math and science, ...
I think that kids more often need to use their brains than an electronic brain, and that is often best served with paper, pencil, beaker, graduated cylinder, stopwatch, dry erase board, etc.