Heard the about the tech guru restricting tech from his or her children?
Apparently it’s rife. The people brainstorming, coming up with and farming out all the latest tech are actually sheltering their offspring from gizmos and gadgets and the black hole that is the internet. Instead they’re choosing to send them to more traditional schools where it’s very hands on and children engross themselves in lessons such as cookery and woodwork with not an app or smartphone in sight.
The reality of The Waldorf School nestled in the techy enclaves of Silicon Valley is a veritable trend bucker, surely a nod that old skool is best. Blackboards, chalk, pencils and paper abound in place of smart little blue screen gadgets and the emphasis is strictly on ‘experiential’ learning including spending a lot of time outside, learning traditional skills such as blacksmithing (chemistry), knitting (maths), cookery (creativity).
But is this wise? Some would say very. In 2018 the children’s commissioner for England warned that children of secondary school age were facing a social media ‘cliff edge’ as they tipped into a world rife with cyber bullying and pornography and their research suggests that extended screen time relates directly to emotional distress, anxiety and depression. And yet many schools (the tech free ones aside) are very much advocating the use of screens and tablets for children to learn from. Some research suggests this isn’t actually necessary and the results lean to a very mixed conclusion about how much you learn using screens over pencil and paper. Moreover it widens the socioeconomic divide. We should say no to the computer.
The London Acorn school has invested fully into this approach - they advocate a gradual integration of child with tech devices. All smartphones and computers are banned for those under 12 (including school holidays) and they are not allowed to access the Internet until after the age of 16. This more balanced way of teaching aims to gain and harbour real life skills such as decision making, concentration and being creative. Sylvie Sklan of The Steiner Academy in Hereford says that digital devices ‘inhibit imaginative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans. What is more, if you teach children to hone and nurture true life skills these will never leave them whereas software and technology changes, shifts, moves on and becomes obsolete.
Which leads us onto another more cynical point that technology is HUGE business. But it’s a business and its principle purpose is to take your money and make money - it's no coincidence that Apple was the first ever trillion dollar company last year. It’s not necessarily evolved either so there is hardware and software that you are told that you need (at mostly huge cost) in order to get the latest most wonderful tech because the pitch from them to us is that we need it and so do our children. They will be successful futurists because they are going to have a fully experiential, interactive, amazingly unforgettable experience with the technology you’ve just shelled out for and will continue to shell out for as the technology miraculously 'drops' and everything including hardware (expensive phones and tablets) need to be updated. And don't forget the constant engagement by us in tech is closely monitored and watched by them. Our habits and day to day net surfing is providing very valuable data about humanity and markets and in turn provides big tech lots of information about consumption so that they can then gobble up those smaller companies and absorb (buy) them and then make even more cash (case in point, Instagram).
Or if you want to teach a younger person something, you could just bake a cake or take the pupils outside for a run or to look at nature and what is happening there and learn about photosynthesis. Or you could go and pick up some rubbish or recycle plastic bottles. There’s a lot of hype and spin in technology that we need to be more mindful of and our kids don’t need to be fed that tech is the be and end all of everything.
But how to strike a balance to get our children ready for the real world? It might be tech free during school hours if you choose a tech free school but what happens out of hours and will they be teased or be at a disadvantage if they are not up to date with the latest gadgets?
Is it like holding the leash too tight and then the child imploding once they’re allowed a phone or an iPad later in life where you can’t dictate rules as easily. Maybe the approach is to be honest and let them be aware of the discussion - so educating children about the limitations and the negative aspects of technology but also balancing that argument with the wonderful things it can and will do as they grow older.
What we all should never forget is that real human contact and being present in real life is what counts and what is going to keep you happy and grounded through life.
A big hug and a kiss versus a nice email or text? A big warm human embrace, every time.