Last month, CNN Money published an article titled Kids do a lot better when schools ban smartphones. It summarizes a study conducted in England with how students’ national exam scores improved or not in relation to the school’s phone policies. The results found that “following a ban on phone use, the schools’ test scores improved by 6.4%. The impact on underachieving students was much more significant – their average test scores rose by 14%.”
The take away could be stated in this manner: the prevalence of technology in our modern lives can distract from the learning process.
This is not really a surprise but more of a confirmation of what many of us have already begun to witness, either in our own lives or the lives of others. Sure, some of us are better equipped to handle this distraction than others, but unfortunately, many will experience undue hardships because of these needless distractions.
Those of us fortunate enough to have been born before the explosion of personal digital devices remember a childhood filled with reading physical books, doing physical activities, playing board games, using our imaginations to create our own scenarios to act out, and having to put a little more effort into learning. On occasion we might sit down and watch some cartoons, a favorite show or a family movie, but we did not “zone out” in front of the idiot box (as my parents like to call television) for more than four hours a day.
Now, with game devices for toddlers, computer access for elementary school students, and smartphones for middle schoolers… childhood has become a time where children become reliant on digital technology to keep them entertained twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Also, who needs to read, learn, recite, memorize, and put into practice information taught in school when all you need to do is Google it and you instantly have more information regarding that topic that any one person wants and/or needs?
I have noticed how social media in the last six years has begun to re-shape human interactions. Even among adults who should know better, we are seeing a startling increase in “speaking” before considering the ramifications of our choice of words, tone, or intent, because the consequences are not as apparent when we are hiding behind a computer screen. Bullying among kids and teens has also escalated, not necessarily in number, but in cruelty and far-reaching effects. While before, a teen might have a problem with a small group of peers, now those peers could spread the bullying through social media, text messaging, etc. until the victim becomes ridiculed by a large number of people they may know (attend school with) and even complete strangers (cyber bullies). And in a world growing ever more superficial, many young girls are now basing their self-worth and self-esteem off how many “likes” they receive on photos they upload to Instagram or Facebook. An entire generation of youth is being raised devoid of natural human interactions.
In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that an entire generation of kids are being raised addicted to technology.
(Are you concerned your child is addicted to technology? Check out this article.)
And even adults are getting sucked into the never-ending black hole of the constant (and expensive) upgrading to better and newer technology. Before we even have the opportunity to master our new digital device, a newer and more improved version is being released and pressure from marketing and our peers often steer us to move on. Smartphones, tablets, computers, Internet, BluRay, cable, satellite, live streaming, GPS, WiFi access in our cars… Why can we not be satisfied with what we currently have as long as it functions as desired? What are our actions teaching our children?
Let me interject by saying: I appreciate technology. I was fourteen when I first dove into the amazing world of the Internet and even began building my first web site. Throughout high school and college, I was an active blogger and met many great people through the precursors of modern social media: web site circles, email groups, forums, message boards, LiveJournal, etc. Today, I am enjoying a career as a web site developer and currently work for a large university.
Technology in and of itself is not evil, it is just a tool, but is how we are using it and how we are allowing children to use it creating a situation in which technology will be misused, abused, and even over-used? Without a doubt, the answer is “Yes”.
I use Facebook and Twitter daily, I still blog often, but I have also decided that I cannot and will not center my entire life around technology and social media. My self-worth and self-esteem is not and will never be dictated by strangers on the other screen of a screen.
I am a human being, a precious child of God, and a woman with an intellectual and creative mind. I choose to utilize technology for the good it can do but limit its influence on my life and the life of my family.
Should I be blessed with children in the future, my goal would be to teach them how to use technology as the tool it was intended to be but not to become dependent upon it. Let us go back to carefree childhoods of imaginative play, of creative endeavors, of reading books, of talking to and interacting with other people face-to-face and in the flesh, of taking walks at sunset, of chasing fireflies or catching grasshoppers, of drawing pictures with crayons, of building castles or cars from legos.
Let us raise our children free: free from the bondage of technology.