Is it your tool or are you its slave?

The past two weeks, I read through Dr Nicholas Kardaras’ book “Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids-and How to Break the Trance”. I believe it is a must-read for any parent or educator. Dr Kardaras makes a convincing case for the developmentally appropriate use of digital technology and I am afraid, as I have suspected for a while, that parents and educators are not doing this well – I feel convicted both as a technology advocate and parent of young children.

In short, students younger than twelve need to spend as little time as possible on or in front of digital devices (e.g. TV, Xbox, PlayStation, smartphone, tablet, etc.) and research suggests that children under two and a half should not be allowed time in front of any screens whatsoever. Studies have confirmed that the overuse of digital technology has a negative impact on children’s brain development and it may manifest itself in a range of behavioural and learning disorders. It should come as no surprise that unstructured play and time in nature are some of the most valuable activities to develop a healthy brain.

The biggest challenge the present adult generation faces is whether we will have the guts to challenge our own thinking about digital devices and how we use them. We will also have to take on the strong marketing forces we are being subjected to, forces that have very cleverly sold us the idea that if we don’t expose our children to copious amounts of digital technology, they will be left behind. This is a false idea. Telling evidence is that some of the most successful Silicon Valley executives, the birthplace of many new digital technologies, do not allow their children much time on devices. It is also not uncommon to find their children in outstanding schools who do not use digital technology in teaching and learning.

I am concerned about the place digital technology has taken in society. A good friend wisely commented over the holiday “we will become like the things, e.g. technology, we ‘worship'”. Scripture teaches “they who make idols are like them; so are all who trust in and lean on them” (Psalm 115:8) and “the idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. [Idols] have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; They have ears, but they hear not, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make [idols] are like them; so is everyone who trusts in and relies on them” (Psalm 135:15-18).

How are we going to respond to the advance of digital technology when we know that it, at times, is negatively impacting how we relate to others, that society seems to “unseeingly” and “unhearingly” adopt it even though discerning teachers and parents know from observation, and scientific research has shown us, that the overuse and developmentally inappropriate use of digital technology are not good for our kids?

Please do not misunderstand me: I am not becoming a technology naysayer. Digital technology is an important tool that I use every day to fulfil my responsibilities. I just think we are not quite getting it right yet and that we have succumbed to the influence of clever marketing that ultimately does not have the well-being of our children at heart.

We do need to teach our students to solve problems with the technology that is available to them. This will not only help them to be salt and light in this world, i.e. make a positive difference to the “wicked” problems (please check the definition) of this world, but also impact the nations with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Let’s take a stand for the thoughtful use of digital technology in our homes and education in New Zealand.

Sources:

  1. Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids-and How to Break the Trance by Dr Nicholas Kardaras – https://www.amazon.com/Glow-Kids-Addiction-Hijacking-Kids/dp/1250097991
  2. A wicked problem is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_problem
  3. Photo credit: schopie1 via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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