I read with great interest the lead story in NYT today – Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction.
The title of the article is pure link bait and doesn’t tell the entire story.
The article itself is a actually reasonably balanced and well written piece on our kids growing up in a world of always on connections, to each other and the web. It describes kids that send thousands of txt messages a month, stay up very late because they are online, avoid their homework and yet others who find their true passion because of technology.
There is no question that all of this can be a challenge even for us adults. I’ve come up with my own set of rules to avoid emails during certain times of the day/night so I can do other tasks at work or spend precious time with my family.
And it’s a struggle. This week I was sleep deprived and hit my limit. 4 hours of sleep per night and a red eye at weeks end and I was useless yesterday.
Now imagine these sort of things and tensions with a kids life. It’s a challenge for sure.
But the crtiical thing I took from the article isn’t how bad or dangerous technology is to our kids. In fact, technology is a gift. There is a child named Vishal profiled in the NYT article. He is obviously talented and bright but he is clearly much more passionate about filmaking than school. Thankfully he found his love for tech and film making vs just being bored at school. How to embrace and support that is the opportunity and challenge for Vishal and his parents.
I liked this part of the article that sums up the tension and challenge:
Mr. Diesel [school principle], by contrast, does not think technology is behind the problems of Vishal and his schoolmates — in fact, he thinks it is the key to connecting with them, and an essential tool. “It’s in their DNA to look at screens,” he asserts. And he offers another analogy to explain his approach: “Frankenstein is in the room and I don’t want him to tear me apart. If I’m not using technology, I lose them completely.”
Mr. Diesel had Vishal as a student in cinema class and describes him as a “breath of fresh air” with a gift for filmmaking. Mr. Diesel says he wonders if Vishal is a bit like Woody Allen, talented but not interested in being part of the system.
But Mr. Diesel adds: “If Vishal’s going to be an independent filmmaker, he’s got to read Vonnegut. If you’re going to write scripts, you’ve got to read.”
Struggling with this sort of thing is happening in our household these days as well. Less about technology but the balancing act between our daughter’s passion and excellence with her ballet and the 2-3 hours of daily homework. It’s hard.
I don’t have any silver bullets here and I still have plenty of things to improve as a parent. But there are a few things we stick to. First, we don’t allow the kids to have their mobile devices or computers in their room. Same with TV’s. We don’t have it as adults so the kids don’t either.
The other thing, is that above all else, we value sleep for our kids (yeah, I know I’m a hypocrite here. it is what it is). Our kids get plenty of sleep and they are still exhausted by the end of a very full day. For our kids, their lives (and ours) would a disaster if we cut back on sleep.
My basic take away from the article was that technology can help our kids reach their potential and passion. But it’s not a substitute for teaching or parenting. We still have our roles to and responsibilities to meet.