Kids used to find ways of entertaining themselves; going outside, playing with siblings or friends. They were forced to interact with each other and developed socially along the way. Things like taking turns, sharing, losing/winning, compromising, complimenting others, and spending time in nature are some of the things we have allowed to go by the wayside. Also showing decorum and saying please and thank you have all but vanished from our kids’ vocabulary and demeanor.
Today kids spend more time indoors on technology than ever before. In fact, research reveals that kids (ages 8-18) are spending about 6-8 hours a day on technology. This is a large amount of time when you consider that there is also sleep, school, homework, dinner, team activities (if any) and family time.
Technology, social apps, and social media are today’s methods of communicating and socializing, replacing actual human interaction in many cases. Between 2011-2015, the use of handheld devices grew so much that by today’s standards 99% of homes utilize some form of handheld devices to communicate, socialize and entertain, not only children but adults as well. Eighty percent (80%) of those homes partake in screen media as part of their daily routine.
Northwestern University’s Center on Media and Human Development, states families fall into three categories:
- Media Centric – 39% of American families consume 11 hours of screen media per day. Think about that in terms of your day. With a modest 6-7 hours of sleep per night (if we are lucky); the leaves 6-7 hours to live your life.
- Media Moderate – 45% of American families consume 5 hours per day doing things together, outside. This is promising and shows at least that parents are becoming more aware of the importance of spending time with your children and are tuning the ever intrusive screen media off.
- Media Light – 16% of American families consume less than 2 hours per day of screen media. These families tend to watch movies together, or other series of mutual interest, but reserve the bulk of their time together to each other, rather than allowing outside programming to program their families.
These studies reveal why our kids are so bored in school; why they don’t have any connection to nature, and why they are increasingly exhibiting anti-social behaviors, both at home and in school.
Let’s start with home. We can blame the kids until we are blue in the face, but ultimately, we are the adults, models, and parents of our children. I have zero use for television and I fall in that media light section. Although to be honest, I do spend most of my day researching articles and writing. I do not watch television but for a small number of documentaries and biopics of interesting characters, mostly historical documentaries, some true crime investigations, and lately I have found great interest in Ancient Aliens.
One of the first things my husband used to do when he got home was to turn on the television. When I walked in from being in the office all day, I would hear the TV and sometimes he was not even sitting in front of it. I would turn it off, and then it would go back on at some point in the evening. That TV was always on, it would really annoy me too, especially the commercials with their silly tunes and loud speaking marketers. Since I have been home the last few months, writing, I usually have music playing in the background, when he gets home, so the TV does not go on until later in the evening. That said, hubby falls into that Media Moderate group.
My son and daughter work and they do not get a lot of TV time, but they definitely fall into the Media Centric category, as they watch shows and videos on their smartphones. My daughter, who works for a tech company actually has two phones, a personal one and a work phone. Her company actually collaborates on their phones, and have meetings and chat sessions related to their work, via their smartphones and Skype or FaceTime. No doubt the tech companies which are flourishing in today’s economy have a stronghold on millennials and then some.
To believe that we are going to reverse this wave somehow… is naivete. So what do we do? Make a concerted effort to spend time in nature with your children, regardless of their age. While they are young, this is pretty easy. They may even enjoy it. But when they are older, technology has done its work on their brains and they are disconnected from their earthly lives and are living in cyberspace. You have to find what works in your family structure and put a plan in place. While it may be uncomfortable at first, it will be worthwhile in the end. I always tell myself, “don’t let cyberspace take your place.”
We live in South Florida, the majority of our nature resides at the beach. We had a boat, but it was too much to get everyone together for a day of boating. While boating was a great way to bring our family together, it was not the only or easiest way to be in nature Because we live in a metropolis, beach days became more attainable. Everyone brought something to snack on, their own towels and beverages and drove their cars to the beach where we’d meet and then whoever needed to leave at any given time could do so. We also take day trips to Key Largo or Marathon for lobster sandwiches, quick getaways to Key West Captiva, Naples, Sanibel, the west coast (of Florida), and of course Disney World. We get together and in nature, and technology is usually relegated to the beach bag, except for taking pictures or when changed Pandora station, which blasts on our Bluetooth speaker. Hey beats the heck out of carrying a boombox or radio to the beach as I used to do back in my youth.
Then there is school. Teachers today are in constant adversarial positions with kid’s technology use. While it is a bit more controlled in elementary school. Middle and high school-aged kids and technology are a big challenge or at times volatile situations teachers face with keeping kids eyes on the chalkboard/whiteboard versus their screen media. As if teachers jobs weren’t hard enough. I believe one way of building a bridge over that divide is for there to be more outside classrooms with less technology geared coursework and more pen and paper. Also, classrooms that are set up as workstations over desks.
Times are a changing and that’s for sure, but it doesn’t have to be a burden. We can use the changing times to properly educate our children. Common Core is one education model we must eliminate. This education model sets children up for failure while moving our children through grades, like cattle to the business world slaughter. Today’s kids can’t even figure out a tip in their heads, they have to pull out their iPhones and use the calculator. Are you kidding me? I am no math wizard, but I can calculate percentages and other math equations in my head, rather quickly actually, from math I learned in elementary and middle school. Up until the 80s, when computers began its invasion into our education system, mastery education seemed to work pretty well.
I get it this would entail taking a close look at our local schools and getting involved. One middle school in my community formed a Friends of Twin Lakes society. They raised money to provide for the things that the school district refused to or could not provide. See the school districts are using more and more of the money they get from the feds to fund their ESOL programs and provide for the overrun of kids in school as a result of illegal immigration, among other things. This is indisputable, so save your bleeding heart opposition arguments. Meanwhile, our kids are bored in class because nothing of the subject matter is in any way interesting. Many teachers have given up, and too many are aligned with their unions and the progressive form of education. The recent walkout funded by Moveon.org in relations to guns is a perfect example.
As parents and taxpayers we have an absolute right…a duty even, to get involved in our kid’s school agendas and attend district meetings. Otherwise, we don’t get to complain as we watch your child go from a being bright, creative and filled with promise to a bored, depressed non-producing young adult. More and more high school grads have no idea what they want to do. Schools have stopped teaching and are just processing our children, using diversity politics while they are at it. Courtesy of the Department of Education and the corrupt, communist leaning, indoctrination engineers that run our local schools and school systems. Its pretty insidious.
Solution?! Get involved in your child’s education, at the school level, at the district level, the county and all the way to State government. Don’t be lazy or afraid. This is your children and mine we are talking about here. Let’s give them every opportunity to succeed, by connecting with them personally, academically and spiritually, to the real world, and by helping them to disconnect from tech.