With yet another warning from a fitness survey (these have been around for decades starting with the U.S. ones cautioning about the dangers of sedentary lifestyles for children watching too much tv), it is hard to imagine why any parents should be shocked by the news yesterday of the negative effects of smartphones on screen-obsessed Canadian kids, who, after all, simply take after many phone-bound moms and dads. Cop-out moms and dads who quickly offer their phones to the kids to play with in order to keep them quiet in doctors’ and dentists’ offices or restaurants, moms and dads who don’t let their kids go outside the house to interact physically with other kids and Nature.
Then there is the ‘great toy conspiracy’ to make available smartphone-like toys for kids as young as infants and toddlers, to play with rather than good old-fashioned blocks, stacking cups, Jacob’s ladders, tops, etc. Or the well-intentioned but misguided educational ‘revolution’ based on ‘inquiry’ (In reality, how many kids choose to use smartphones to look up in-depth information rather than chatting, texting, or game-playing?) and ‘discovery’. A ‘revolution’ which is a major deconstruction of basic autonomous skills and broad-based knowledge of old. A ‘faux-revolution’ which omits or pooh-poohs book-learning as ‘un-with-it’, and invites kids to ‘go play’ bigtime in an e-media world of entertaining infotainment news and dumbed-down programming devoid of significant, necessary contextually-structured learning experiences. This is the same kind of “Go play” of a parent turning over his or her phone to distract or control kids rather than being truly hands-on responsible for their behaviour, learning, and inherited values.
In my childhood and those of kids as recent as two-three decades ago, we/they did go outside to play for real–moving from the chair, couch, or floor to actively leave the house, to go outside into Nature and the ‘outside world’ to engage with Nature and others. If, on the other hand, as the surveyed have warned that relatively passive physical habits combined with sweet and salty snacks are acceptable or desirable home, family, or social behaviors, then the results will be obvious and predictable in the forthcoming lotus-eaters revolution I wrote about a few entries ago.
Technology, good and god-like though it has been and can be–c.f. my previous entry on the +ve effects and contributions of technology in Western civilization and lifestyle–has been given a free, unlimited pass in the area of e-media communications today. Education, parents, and governments have turned a blind eye to the short- and long-term effects of excessive reliance on smartphones on young people, in particular. A mass abandonment of personal, familial, and social responsibility, while companies and corporations laugh all the way to the bank as they foist their iPhone5s and ads that preach the sanctity and wisdom of kids lying around like Tennyson’s lotus-eaters zonked out in their own private, meaningless, dream-worlds. The mindless e-illusion of pseudo power, control, autonomy, and self-sufficiency. The ultimate pipedream of ‘The Good E-Media Life’.
Sven Birkerts in his classic, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age, concluded by saying:
“History,” said Stephen Dedalus, “is a nightmare from which I am trying to awaken.” This [the e-media age] may be the awakening, but it feels curiously like the fantasies that circulate through our sleep. From deep in the heart I hear the voice that says, “Refuse it.”
To which I would add, “Have patience. Focus. Concentrate. Work. Think. Critically question. Explore conflicts. Know the difference between shallow self-serving crap and meaningful information and knowledge. Learn contexts, patterns and structures. Imagine on your own without technology. Interact with Nature and the live in-person presences of others. Don’t miss the wondrous beauty. Experience real power and true control in your life. Breathe deep. Move!”