Healthy Boundaries with Technology
Another weekend has past that has left my heart full. In the last few weeks, I have attended several workshops and conferences, where each one left a profound impact on me. I was not sure which I should share about this week, but have decided to begin with the one that just past, and work my way backwards from there. The one from this weekend is very much alive in me at the moment, and I am still processing it.
Well, I will have to break it down even more, as the weekend was in 2 parts. The first was a presentation by Lowell Monke, a professor and writer that presents nationally on the topic of today’s Digital Dilemma. He has participated and observed long term studies on technologies, which has left him with delicate insight on this matter. I encourage you all to look up this speaker, and even invite him to present at your school. He is possibly the best speaker on this topic I have ever listened to.
So I am left wondering what my relationship to our current electronic age is. And how do I model this relationship to my children? I thought I understood this already, but I realized that it wasn’t as clear within me as I thought it was. After all, I need my phone to be connected with school, for my independent job, my blog, and so much that requires me to tune in during the day. What effect can this constant, anxious desire/need to be “connected” and check in have on me all day long? What image am I passing on, and what will it do for my children when they are older?
How does it serve my children now? What does it do for all of our children – the future generation? Well, let’s take a look. According to the Keiser Foundation, children are spending about 9 hrs. a day in front of some sort of screen (phone, ipad, TV, computer, video game, etc.). Hmmm, isn’t that the whole day? Don’t kids normally do kid things – like play? Is it ok for any of us to be in front of a screen that long? Thanks to Lowell, I now understand that there is a difference between adults and children on this, which is – we have developed our internal capabilities already, and know how to use our technologies as a tool to expand on whatever it is we have intended to use it for. Children have not developed this inner capacity yet. Their inner capabilities need to be developed as they grow. What do I mean by this? Lowell, explained that children still need to practice and exercise their inner capacities, and technology actually inhibits this development, because no practice is allowed. The example he used was that of a calculator or a spell check. If you use these tools before you have developed your own capability for arithmetic and spelling, then you never develop the skill on your own – therefore you become dependent on it.
What does the child need to develop this? He needs FIRST HAND experience with something (the way all children learned before 1950 – before the TV invaded the homes). A firsthand experience of a tree, allows the child to have a fully body response to it. He learns about it with his whole body. How it feels, how it smells, what it looks like, how cool the shade under it feels, the creatures that live in it, etc. What we find now, is that children learn through symbolic representation instead. They read the words on a screen or paper, and have nothing that really is recalled for the child. Reading the word tree, and reading about it, will not recall the full body experience of the tree. But, if you first experience the tree, and then read about it, your body will have a response to the word Tree. Lowell stated that in college level now, excellent readers are not able to fully recall or comprehend what they just read. The reason is because their brain read it, but there is nothing else attached to it. It is just words and symbols. That is all. It’s great to read, but even better to fully grasp what you are reading about. Something to recall about what you are reading – to make it alive in you.
Real Life Education
How do we encourage our children to learn FROM something, instead ABOUT something?
Thing about this for a moment… Consider what happens when children have been learning from their Leap Frog and all their supposed educational tech toys, and school smart boards, as opposed to being outside and actually living and learning from the real thing? When they finally grow to be teenagers and they begin looking for friends and mates behind screens, as opposed to being out for the real experience. What happens when they are waiting for social approval from their so called Social Media friends, after they posted whatever image of themselves they chose? What happens when they are not allowed to simply be themselves around others? Do they really have 500 friends? Seems like they are really connected, but are they close with all these friends? Studies show that 1 in 4 Americans don’t have anyone to confide in. Do they have a true friend that will have their back, love them, be there when they are down to pick them back up, and to enjoy those difficult teenage years with?
It is said that social media, and technology is supposed to connect us more than ever. Is it connecting us, or disconnecting us? Take a good look. Are we more connected than ever?
Is your child talking to you during dinner or is he using some form of technology? Is he texting while you’re driving him to school? When he is 15 and his earphones on, texting or playing and simply is not present with you (because this is how he was raised), will you be longing to connect with him? Is it possible to connect with them from when they are young instead of numbing them in front of some screen? Can you tell them a story, instead of the talking book or screen?
I have many questions, and so do many experts that are beginning to wonder about all of this. They are questions that need to be asked, with the hope that we begin searching for a few answers.
The question Lowell asked, is what can be done about all of this? It is a question I will also ask you. Maybe we can all begin by consciously parenting our children. Don’t simply flow with the current. You may have to swim against it in order to do what feels right (once again). Lowell offered many wonderful suggestions, and I will leave you with a few. If you would like to learn more, ask him to visit your school. It is worth every moment that you invest in getting him there. You can find a few of his suggestions along with my tips in my weekly tips hanger.
Do you have any suggestions that have worked for you?