Here we are, the start of a new year and the Dawn of a New Decade. Do you remember when the start of “Year 2K” was upon us and we were all afraid that the computers would shut down? What would we do without computers these days?
Just a quick glance at any storefront, advertisement, or gathering of people will reveal that “everyone is plugged in” – connected to the net, the game console, the Internet, or television. These are our digital ways of communicating, reading, writing, and, of course, playing. What are the immediate and long-term impacts of our digital age? What have we abandoned?
Researchers and behavioral specialists have long beaten the drums of warning. Warnings that a lack of time relating to others – replaced by screen time – will have significant effects on society.
Certainly technology can assist those with learning differences in having more effective written communication, auditory input of text and language, and all the glories of visual-spatial, multi-sensory images and creative output. Nevertheless, the amount of time people, especially children, are spending in front of or plugged into a ‘screen” of some kind is starting to show negative results.
Even in casual conversation, parents complain that it is difficult to enforce electronic curfews. Children and teens are no longer gaining enough hours of sleep. they cannot “unplug” themselves. sadly, the level of “communication” performed on screens is rising, with many children averaging thousands of text messages a month. Do the math – that’s a lot of texting. Have you read the texts? All of them? Texting does not form good social skills. People will “text” information and comments they never would say to someone’s face. This can be one factor encouraging “cyber bullying.”
The language used in the written text no longer resembles English. These skills are eroding. discretion and consideration for others are vanishing. personal issues that no one would insert into a spoken conversation are privy to others – with abandon. wild conversations are in “public space” as people walk around chatting loudly on wireless devices, forgetting others can hear them. Perhaps they want others to hear them? Maybe they feel so important that they want to share that conversation with strangers?
We are also replacing memory skills with machines.
There is no need to memorize numbers, addresses, facts, nor actively “think” to solve a problem – “Google it!” (Although I have to say, I’m just as thrilled as anyone else to find a quick answer.) “Google” is now a verb! Information arrives, pre-digested, pre-selected, and pre-screened, with no need to store it. “Google” it the next time you need it. “Look it up in your phone.”
It is clear our youth are Digital Natives and much of society is following behind them, as Digital Immigrants. By the age of 20, a teen can have spent over 20,000 hours on the web and over 10,000 hours playing video games. On an average day, 8-1/2 hours are spent using digital and video devices – more than a traditional “work day.”
Research shows that time in front of a screen can influence the level of physical activity received and emotional development of 10-11 year olds. more than 2 hours a day was found to have a negative effect on their emotional development, no matter how active they were physically. They were unhappy, tearful, and alone. Two hours a day? That’s just enough time for clearing junk emails! Reading is no longer word-by-word. There’s no time for that. Errors, confusion, and hurt feelings come from the eyes jumping around and scanning. Reading “comprehension” dies.
Then there are the video games.
When compared to children raised without access to video games, those who are given access spend less time in after-school activities than their peers. There are declines in reading and writing scores, lacking any practice or use of these skills. Current research suggests that children are choosing to replace vital social interactions, skill development, and academic skill practice with game playing. This is not a novel event, most kids want to play when they arrive home in the afternoon. Yet play is now different from years before. Play is now solitary, screen focused, and far more difficult to drawn to a close.
“Wait! I’m not finished with this level.” No one says that when they are playing sports, building with legos, drawing or painting, or playing a board or card game. These forms of play are tried-and-true and can be stopped and resumed at any time. The player is in control, not the digital device.
With early introduction to technology, the Digital Natives are indeed desensitized by the violence they see. This is shown in studies of brain responses and skin/sweat responses. Terror on the screen no longer evokes bodily responses. These digital natives feel fewer strong emotions to the materials as well as lowered physical reactions. Lowered reactions may influence how they would behave in real situations. The game play may accept aggression as normal behavior.
Are parents ready and prepared to unplug the kids?
Check out the following sources for additional information:
- The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein
- Ivory Tower Blues by James Cote
- iBrain by Gary Small
- Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott
- Posit Science (company of Michael Merzenich)