Is Technology Hurting our Children?

With the advent of technology getting in touch with someone is as simple as sending a text message to that person.  Facebook has become so common that it has pretty much become a part of our vocabulary with people asking, “Are you on Facebook” or “I’ll Facebook you.”  Twitter has made it easy for people to share their thoughts or small details of their lives, within 140 characters of course.  People are so dependent on their mobile devices that when they lose or do not have them, they feel lost or out of touch with the world.  While I myself check my phone occasionally for my e-mails, I begin to wonder how this dependence on technology will harm our children in the long run. 

I remember when I was younger I would have to either call my friends or go to their houses to see if they wanted to hang out.  Many times we would spend hours playing outdoors with other kids in the neighborhood.  We would play hide-and-go-seek, freeze tag or invent games until it was time to go in for dinner.  These were great times, because the time would fly and we were interacting with our friends, not just sending messages back and forth. 

Whenever I step out I constantly see kids on their cell phones texting.  I understand wanting to say something to your friend, but if you’re sending 20 texts to the same person, why don’t you just call them and have a conversation?  Talking to one another will help you build your communication skills.  You always hear about the teen who texts 5000 times in a month and they wear it like a badge, but that is just ridiculous.  I don’t care if your parents have an unlimited plan, they should put a limit on your phone usage.  Although I see where phones are useful in emergencies, I think that there should be a course somewhere to teach proper phone etiquette.  I don’t need to hear your conversation!

Another great thing I remember was having pen pals in school.  For those that do not know this term: different schools would pair up students to write letters to each other to share their experiences in their schools and daily lives.  I remember writing my letters and trying to share as much as I could with my pen pal and waiting with anticipation for their response.  The day when the letters would come in was always exciting because you couldn’t wait to read what your pen pal was up to and what they had to say about your letter. 

Other than writing for school assignments, how many kids now-a-days, know who to write a proper letter? I think that the art of letter writing is dying, due to the usage of text messaging and e-mails.  It seems like the attention spam is so short, that no one would want to sit down and write a letter to someone and wait a few days/weeks for a response.  While e-mailing someone is quick and instant, getting a letter in the mail is more personal and intimate.  A letter shows that this person took the time out of their day to sit and actually write down their thoughts for you.  I really think that we need to start doing this again.  Just try sending one letter to a friend a week and see what happens.

Schoolwork was different back then also.  When ever we had to write a paper we would go to the local library and use the card catalog to find information about whatever we were writing about.  Then we would use the encyclopedias to gather more information for our paper and sit down and write out all we found. After that process was complete we would write out our paper or type it out on a typewriter, trying to make as few mistakes as possible, before we turned it in.  Remember, spell check was not a feature on typewriters. 

With the invention of the internet, research that would take us hours to do can now be done in a few minutes with a few keystrokes. Today’s kids have it so easy when it comes to doing research.  Although they can’t believe everything that they find online, at least they can find their information a lot faster than we did.  The downfall of this instant information is that it takes the hard work out of doing the work.  Since everything is at their fingertips it makes you wonder: Are they really learning anything?  Are they just copying what they found without really paying attention to it? 

The last thing I want to talk about is respect.  When I was younger we were taught to respect our elders and authority figures.  Back then there was no questioning it, our teachers knew what was right for us and we did what they told us if we wanted to become part of a civilized society.  Acting a fool in class would lead to a visit to the principals office or detention, because that was not how you acted in class. 

It seems like these rules do not apply to kids these days.  Many times you hear stories about kids who threaten their teachers or fight back with a police officer, thinking there are no consequences for their actions and then are surprised by the penalties placed against them.  Although this is a parenting issue, it is also a technology issue.  With the boom of social media many kids don’t know how to act in public, because most of their interactions are online.  With many video sharing sites posting videos of teens fighting or doing stupid acts, some kids think that acting in this way is normal or okay.  Many kids feel invincible and think that they can do anything and get away with it.  Especially when you see celebrities on the news that get a slap on their wrist for their indiscretions, kids think that they will get the same treatment.  We have to show them that this is not the way to act and that their actions can harm them in the future. 

While my daughter will turn a year in August I am already trying to instill in her the values that I learned as a child.  I want her to be a productive member of society and  help her generation instead of hurting it.  Although these may sounds like the musing of an old man, these are just the thoughts of a concerned parent. A parent who wants his child to grow up in world where she doesn’t need to rely on technology for everything and doesn’t mind a little hard work.  Kids need to know that they need to work hard for what they want and are not going to be given anything for free. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this and any other issues I may have missed on technology and our children. Thanks for your time.

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