I recently went on a train. I have always liked them, but haven’t made many trips. In fact my dream is to make a train trip across the Rockies in Canada. There is something hypnotic about sitting by a window and watching the changing scenery with the rhythmic sounds of the train in the background. In the newer trains designed with tourists in mind, even the roof is transparent! In my head the train is a whole city moving through the landscape and as a child, I had loved the feeling of going forward as the landscape moved back!
By Intel Free Press – http://www.flickr.com/photos/intelfreepress/9527140076/sizes/o/in/photostream/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27914424
Train journeys are a great time to reflect. These last few months my wife and I have been talking a lot about parenting in the digital age. It’s hard to bring up kids without the influence of digital devices.
A digital education has many pros. Educational kids games help with learning. Schools use them extensively. Kids can find information easily. They can watch videos of things they want to know more about. Boring subjects can be made interactive and interesting. Textbooks can be done away with and teachers can compile their own material. Children can explore what they want. It improves their problem solving strategy. The list can go on and this is a good list. There’s no denying it.
Human beings are social creatures and we live such that there is give and take. Isolation’s definitely not good for kids. Our biggest grouse against digital device is the fact that it isolates kids with their device. They might chat with others or they might have virtual friends, but physically it’s lonely.
Outdoor play reduces. For kids in their growing years, its very important to be physically active. They need a good dose of Vitamin N, especially in the growing years. They understand their surroundings when they tramp through the countryside. Snow, slush, rain, heat etc., kids must have exposure to all of it. Their senses are sharpened by spending time in nature.
With more time spent on digital devices, the ability to make by hand is reducing. In a time when devices were not available, kids commonly had hobbies which involved collecting, building or some other activity by hand. Building something not only helps kids pick up a skill, it also helps them understand how things work and the properties of materials.
Staring at devices for a long time causes eye problems in some people. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of eye problems in young people. When kids get involved in what they watch, they actually forget to blink!
The Middle Path
Completely cutting off kids from devices or not stopping them in any way are two extremes we need to avoid. We have given this a lot of thought. We can’t ban devices, because we continue to use them. What we can do is set a good example, by not using them while we eat or spend time with the kids. We must get more serious about the time we spend outdoors with the kids. Summer really helps as the time we spend outdoors naturally increases. If kids have something more interesting than the game they have on their device, they will be naturally be weaned off digital content. We should increase the activities we do together and kids might be encouraged to put away their games to explore this beautiful world!