This video of Louis C.K. on Conan started making its rounds on Twitter recently, hitting both educational and parenting related hashtags. Then this morning I wake up to an email from my fiance (who has a passionate dislike for cell phones and probably only has one because I get upset over the idea of not being able to reach him 24/7) with the very same link. So, I’ve seen the title more than once now, it’s triggered my curiosity and I finally take the plunge and, click.
I laughed my head off! Yes, because it was funny, but also because behind the humor, there was so much truth! I had to ask myself, as an educator who is passionate about technology in the classroom, where do I stand?
One of my favorite parts from the entire clip comes in pretty early on where he says “Just say ‘no’…I don’t care what you want, I’m not there to make them happy.” He then continues to explain, “I’m not raising the children, I’m raising the grown ups they’re gonna be. So I have to raise them with the tools to get through a terrible life.”
As a Kindergarten teacher, I have seen many parents hand over their cell phone or iPad to their young children to keep them entertained. Do I approve of this behavior? Absolutely not. Do I think technology should be cut out of children’s lives entirely? The answer is still no.
Let’s go back to the video, particularly the part about raising children “with the tools to get through a terrible life.” Even as adults, technology takes us away from real life, human-to-human interactions. It takes away our ability to empathize with others and creates a little bubble where we live alone. Why then does it not seem so bad for us? We can all still deal with people everyday if we wanted to, and we all survive those days where we forget our cell phones at home (just barely!). Well, my hypothesis is that it’s because we didn’t have cell phones or iPads when we were 5 years old. We learned social skills at the appropriate age and they’re built into who we are now, so when the time comes, we can draw on those skills naturally. Now let’s fast forward to the current generation of youngsters who are being born into a world where this sort of technology already exists. If their socio-emotional development revolves around these devices, if we are enabling the addiction to technology at toddlerhood, it begs the question, will they learn the same social skills we did growing up? How are they going to have the “tools they need to survive a terrible life”? I can almost imagine tomorrow’s adults seizing up at the awkward situation of having to discuss a sensitive topic face-to-face, then returning to their ‘bubbles’ to only later settle the discussion via text message. What a sad world that would be.
On that note, I’d like to pull another quote where C.K. says, “You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away.” To that I say YES, YES, and YES! Even I have been guilty of this, having that uncomfortable feeling of being alone in complete silence without some device to fiddle with. To this day I have to make a conscious effort to turn everything off and focus on a task that doesn’t involve all the stimulation of today’s technology, such as reading a book or writing a note card. If I as an adult, have a harder time doing these things because the allure of my phone or computer is more appealing, what will it be like for the kids who have never known a time without these devices in their lives? As a teacher of young children, I urge parents to allow their children to experience time where they get to sit still and find creative ways to entertain themselves that don’t involve technology. Otherwise, they will only be able to sit still with the presence of it in their lives. It’s hard to teach a child the wonders of sitting with a book when they can only concentrate if there is an animated screen in front of them. A book suddenly isn’t quite as interesting.
Okay, now let me take you to the other side of things, because as I mentioned earlier, I am not opposed to exposing children to technology either. The world is moving forward fast and to deny the existence of technology isn’t quite so realistic either. Especially because much of this technology was invented to connect the world in ways we could never have imagined when we were kids. International families are becoming much more common, people are moving all over the world, and technology allows them to continue to build relationships with their family members and loved ones far away by sending pictures, emailing or talking through programs such as Skype or FaceTime. If you look at my blog or my class blogs, you’ll find my classroom is technology filled. I have a Smart Board, projector, eleven iPads for the children, one iPad mini for myself, a document camera, and a tablet PC. Not to mention the digital camera that is assigned to my teaching assistant to take pictures of the various things we do throughout the day and her own PC. Here’s where I would like to point out the ways in which I APPROVE of technology in children’s lives:
Everything I do in my classroom is planned, with an educational objective behind it.
I plan how my students will use the technology and why, teach them how to do so, guide them through the process so they are not left alone to wander off task, and when they are done they are DONE, there’s an end to the time they get on these devices.
So this is the difference between my beliefs in technology as a pro in children’s lives and technology as a con. If you take the time to plan how children are using technology, what the learning objective will be, what skills you want them to acquire through its use, then yes, it can be a wonderful resource! I do not however, believe in technology being used as an open-ended toy in the same manner we might allow children to play with blocks or paint, for instance. I think that the younger the child the more important it is that their interactions with technology are guided by an adult who can talk them through the process. Finally, I think that if you are going to introduce technology into your child’s life that there should be a time limit on it and it should be balanced out by other forms of play.
I’m sure many people may have different opinions for a variety of reasons, but these are my thoughts.