Breaking technology’s pernicious grip on our children
Technology is everywhere. But is it all good for us and – particularly – is it good for our children?
The last 50 years have seen tremendous technological advancement. The 1960s television comedy Get Smart featured a mobile phone that the main character wore in his shoe. We laughed because it seemed impossible. Today, 95 per cent of the adults in the United States own a cellphone. Technology is omnipresent.
Technology has clearly allowed for improvements in the delivery of education. Students have the finest libraries in the world at their fingertips. Years ago, when a student asked a question that the teacher couldn’t answer, it would have to be researched and reported back to the class. Now, we simply Google the topic and move forward. It’s a fun and exciting way to learn.
When we look at statistics that show the bigger societal picture, however, we see disturbing trends. For the last several decades, we’ve seen girls far outperform boys in academic achievement. And technology may be widening the gap.
Problems caused by technology extend far beyond our schools.
We’re seeing increasing percentages of young people with anxiety disorders. Obesity rates are on the rise in many countries, including Canada. Both problems have links to increased use of technology.
Boys are more likely to experience addictions. The two areas of greatest concern are the growing industries of video gaming and pornography.
Sexually-explicit material has become so easily accessible on the Internet that Canada’s Parliament unanimously passed a motion to investigate its impact.
The average boy is exposed to this material at age 12. According to psychiatrist Philip Zimbardo, a normal boy will watch 50 pornographic videos in a week. This negatively shapes the way he sees women and relationships. And we’re even seeing young men developing erectile dysfunction related to this obsession.
Video gaming addictions most often affect boys and young men. Academic and social development are impacted, and treatment centres are becoming more and more common all over the world.
How can we resolve these problems?
Responsible legislation is certainly a step in the right direction.
We also need to remember that, as family counsellor Dorothy Law Nolte put is so beautifully, “Children learn what they live.” So they need the adults in their lives to teach them healthy boundaries – and they need to see us living with healthy boundaries.
According to uncommen.org, the average 30-to-45-year-old male is the highest consumer of pornography, spends 2.5 hours a day on his smartphone, and talks to his children for an average of 3.4 minutes a day.
The formative years with our children only come once. When we take time to read with them, share meals with them, play with them and make them the highest priorities in our lives, we give them the message that they’re worthwhile.
There will always be challenges, no matter how hard we try. But our children need to know that we’re here for them. This awareness gives them a solid core that helps them as they progress though life.
We face unprecedented challenges. When we walk through it together, focused on what’s best for our children, we can be assured that technology will be a tool that improves the quality of human life and not a snare that keeps us from developing to our potential.