I am entering unchartered waters.
Neither my mother nor my grandmother can help me with this, and my friends are all caught up in the same current.
We are the parents of the first generation of screen-taught children, and something about it makes me feel very uneasy.
All of my kids have Smart Boards in their classrooms. My second grader regularly gets on the computer at school. My sixth graders were given laptops this year to bring home. They use their laptops at school and then they come home and do 90% of their homework on them. For several hours.
They are learning.
Now, I will be the first to say that technology is amazing. It has enhanced and enriched my life in so many ways. But at the same time, when I see my kids parked on the couch like this part of me screams inside. I feel this is all too early, and I think we will regret exposing them to so much when they are still so young. I know that schools feel pressure to be technologically savvy and everyone wants to be on the cutting edge of education, but I feel like the cutting edge of education is excellent teachers (which my kids have), and not screens.
While they were taught not give out personal info on their laptops, my 11-year-olds were not given any guidance concerning pornography; what it is, and what they should do if they see it. They were instructed to simply “not view pornographic images” and to “use your laptop in public areas of the house.” The school seems to have confidence that the students will explicitly obey these instructions. I guess none of us have to worry. Whew!
Then I find out that the kids are sometimes asked to gather images to post into their homework. It doesn’t take long for a child to learn that the fastest way to gather images is to search under Images on Google. If the schools think the children will not come across pornography that way, they are in fantasyland. (I looked up “cow” the other day under Images for an art project and stumbled upon a couple of surprises! Yikes!)
But I can see how the schools’ hands are tied. They are as mystified as parents are when it comes to the appropriate way to explain pornography to kids that young. And that very fact should clue us in. Should we be letting our children use any device if the warning label alone is too dangerous to be explained?
I think it is important for kids to learn with computers, and I think it is vital that they have laptops. I just can’t help wondering if this could all wait a few more years. There are things they need to know first, things they need to experience first, and self-discipline that they need to develop. As adults they will be on computers for the rest of their lives. Their childhood should be kept as pristine and protected as a National Park. I want them to be kids now. I want them to draw, imagine, run, scribble, play outside. Am I using enough italics to get my point across?
Not only that, but the year after my twins learned cursive the school stopped teaching it. No more cursive. That means my younger children will never be able to read this:
My kids will also not be able to read this:
Cursive is going to be as readable as a foreign language.
Of course, I can’t let this happen to my children, so I will teach them the lost arts of Cursive and other outdated practices like Brainstorming and Coming Up With Original Ideas Not Found On Pinterest and Writing Thank-You Letters By Hand.
But all is not lost. Recently my daughter Naomi came up to me and said, “Mom I have one week left of my personal goal.”
Me: “What is your personal goal?”
Naomi: “To not play computer games for four weeks.”
My mouth dropped open. In my mind I quickly reviewed Naomi’s activities of the last three weeks and sure enough, Naomi had never asked to play on the computer (which I grudgingly allow after all homework and piano practicing is finished). Instead she had drawn stacks and stacks of beautiful pictures. She had read dozens of books. I was so proud of her I almost exploded. A week later, when she finally finished her “personal goal,” I let her play on the computer. She only asked for 20 min and she hasn’t asked since.
If we took all the time we spent on computers and used it to draw, think of what great artists we’d be. If we took that time and practiced an instrument, threw a ball back and forth, read books . . . think of what we could do. Well, there ARE kids out there that doing that. And I believe they will be the creative leaders in the future because they had a creative beginning.
We are riding a wave of technology that leads to Who-knows-where, and in the process we are tossing many treasured things overboard. In my mind I imagine me and my mother-friends being sucked into this swift, uncharted current of technology and shouting out to each other, “What should we do?”
The easy answer is, “Let’s just see where it takes us!”
To me that sounds like some famous last words.