I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I hate the fact that almost anywhere you go on this continent you are absorbing microwave radiation and nobody asked if you wanted it. Having said this, I love the fact that if I am in the middle of nowhere and my “trusty” Volkswagen van dies, I can call for help. Yes, the paradox of technology. We live in a world where we our technologies allow us to communicate instantly with anybody around the world but less and less we speak face to face. How many times have you witnessed two people sitting across from one another staring down at their screens? I have committed this vulgar act myself.
Recently a good friend was over for a glass of wine. I was thinking about a loose end with a student and I picked up my phone to send an email. She busted me and I thanked her. I admire her for not only snapping me back to the present moment but for the fact that she refuses to own a cell phone. Can you imagine? How does she survive? It would seem, quite well, in fact. The technology has crept into our lives quickly and surreptitiously. For those under the age of twenty, you pretty much never knew of a time when instant messaging, texting, and emailing were not regular part of most people’s lives. For those a bit older, we have grown up in a time with limited technology and lower rates of social anxiety, depression, and teenage suicide. While spending our lives talking with our “friends” on “social media” may not be directly responsible for increased incidences of anti-social behaviour or bullying, it is likely to be not far from a straight line connection.
When I speak with other parents, I hear similar stories. Parents “rewarding” their kids for staying outside on nice days when they would prefer to be interacting with lit screens. It is hard to blame the kids. They are surrounded by the technology and grew up with it. It is essentially how they learned to communicate with “friends”. I worry less about our young kids taking that first sip of beer with their buddies than I do when they start texting and emailing in private.
As a teacher, I see first hand students who come to class and text or email during lecture. I have tried to figure out ways to ban the technology in class but I gave up. It seems the addiction is too strong for some. I ask them why they come to class and they reply, “so I don’t fail!” I say, “but you didn’t hear a thing I said!” They quickly add, “we all just share bits and pieces of the lecture on Facebook.” Not all students are this way and not all kids prefer screens to jumping from roof tops into a pile of autumn leaves but I do fear if we don’t model appropriate social behaviour in front of the children, how can we expect them to learn.
We can still embrace technology but we need to remember the real world is not seen by looking down at a screen but rather looking up. We can be taught. We all need friends to remind us and help us when we forget. Thanks again Susan for the reminder! Thanks Mark for sending me the link to this video which inspired the blog: http://blog.petflow.com/this-is-a-video-everyone-needs-to-see-for-the-first-time-in-my-life-im-speechless/