My Students Don’t Know How to Have a Conversation

I have so many problems with this article and those that tout the similar argument of; “kids these days! all this newfangled technology is ruining them!”

Back in March, I posted an article that uses this argument (10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12), but, since then, I came across the above Atlantic article which sparked my anger enough to make me contribute to the comment thread. 

What was particularly interesting about this comment thread (and what kept me dedicated to getting my comments on public record) was that my comments with website links as citations, as proof of the evidence I was using in my arguments, kept being tagged and deleted as “Spam.” It’s nearly impossible to know for sure whether they were being tagged by an automatic computer program simply because I was using so many links in my comments, or whether they were being tagged by an administrator of the site with personal biases. But I can say that other comments of mine on other Atlantic articles with a similar amount of website citation links were not being deleted from the same comment board system (Disqus). Additionally, not only did my comments get deleted once, but one comment in particular (even though I reworded it each time) got deleted three times. Only when I worded the comment with my link as “news(dot)discovery(dot)com” was it finally allowed to stay. Paranoid conspiracy theory? Perhaps.

Either way, I feel like the above discrepancy is enough to warrant a discussion of the topic and article on a platform where the commentator makes the rules. 

*********

First off (even before I begin my argument for children’s use of new technology), I would like to examine the article itself and the logic pattern that the author uses.

The author uses contradicting information as “evidence” within the article itself:

In the 5th paragraph from the end: “Online discussion boards and Twitter are useful tools for exchanging ideas. But they often encourage a “read, reflect, forget about it” response that doesn’t truly engage students in extended critical thinking or conversation.”

In the next paragraph, literally two sentences later: “In a New York Times column, Turkle wrote, “Face-to-face conversation unfolds slowly. It teaches patience. When we communicate on our digital devices, we learn different habits … we start to expect faster answers.”

So, according to the author, digital communication encourages “a ‘read, reflect, forget about it’ response” while simultaneously “expecting faster answers”?

And the author is a teacher attempting to “school” teenagers in the art of communication? Shouldn’t they be able to, I don’t know, write a logically coherent article?

Now, onto my arguments:

Okay, yeah, kids should not be spending a lot of time watching mindless tv shows and playing mindless games. But what about toddlers that use laptops, ipads, iphones, etc. to skype with family? What about Leap Frog games? What about Reading Rainbow and Mister Rogers??

In the Huffington Post article, the American and Canadian Societies of Pediatrics recommend banning, and then strictly limiting later on, the use of all “new” technology for kids of various ages:

2014-03-06-Screenshot20140306at3.29.09PM.png

I couldn’t believe that these supposedly reputable organizations ignore the fact that there are useful and educational technologies out there for infants and children.

If they’re skyping with grandparents, or playing music, or making art in an app, or the like, then I don’t think it’s damaging. The Huffington Post article annoys me so much because I hate the concept of “banning” anything. People, and families, should be encouraged to learn the facts and make their own decisions. But when the “bans” are coming from the American and Canadian Societies of Pediatrics, then there’s a high chance of concerned families blindly imposing the “bans” without considering the situation thoroughly. They’re even banning pornography for children 13-18 years old, which brings up soo many problems. First, what is considered pornography (see: paintings of Cupid & Psyche and Courbet’s Origin of the World)? Second, if they’re banning it to “protect young minds,” did you know that sexual violence is more likely to occur in places that have sexually repressed atmospheres—including the banning of pornography and sex education? And did you know that there’s no sociological data that clearly links pornography to sexual violence? Don’t take my word for it. Just look it up.

Critical thinking, as defined by The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking (Canada), is “the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skilfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.”

Those who want to ban and/or strictly limit the use of technology by children often site statistics that correlate the formation of ADHD to television consumption. However, they rarely engage their critical thinking skills to ask: What if it’s the type of television shows, and the interruptions of commercials, that are the cause of the ADHD? What if it’s how we consume television in the US?

 

And, yes, while I understand the need to be “better safe than sorry,” I am all for opening up the world for exploration for children. The more access they have to people, and culture, and knowledge, the better. And more often than not these days, people, cultures, and knowledge come from iPads and iPhones: “new” technology.

It would be like if, back in the day, they banned toddlers from listening to a-tracs and records as modes of consuming music and culture. It’s just a new technology used to connect with the world outside the home.

An NPR story put it succinctly:

“Why not integrate the devices into family time?

“There’s no reason whatsoever that a caregiver can’t use an app with their child,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity for what we call ‘joint attention’ — the interactions between a child and a caregiver, the back-and-forth, which is critical not just to language development, but brain development.

Sound familiar? It should. This, says Christakis, isn’t much different from sitting down and reading a book with your child.”

Furthermore, Harvard clinical psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair recently wrote “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age”. And what she found in her interviews was the overwhelming consistency of children complaining about having to compete with technological devices for their parents’ attention.

The problem isn’t if children are exposed to “technology.” The problem is how much and in what way people (not just children) are using technology. Critical thinking is a lost art these days apparently. Semantics make all the difference when it comes to studies and statistics.

Case in point, one great example of children, and people in general, benefiting from children’s use of technology is a BuzzFeed Article: “A Toddler Used FaceTime To Save His Mom After She Was Attacked By A Dog.” If the toddler hadn’t know how to use FaceTime on an iPhone, the mother wouldn’t have had access to immediate medical attention.

Many “adults” are so eager to blame children’s shortcomings and growing-phase awkwardness, when really it’s just a continuation of the age-old “when I was your age…” or “kids these days don’t respect their elders…” and other similar complaints.

I also found a great article listing “15 Historical Complaints About Young People Ruining Everything.” A few relevant examples:

“CORRUPTED THE MORALS OF MANY A PROMISING YOUTH

In the 1790 book Memoirs of the Bloomsgrove Family, Reverend Enos Hitchcock wrote,

‘The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth; and prevented others from improving their minds in useful knowledge. Parents take care to feed their children with wholesome diet; and yet how unconcerned about the provision for the mind, whether they are furnished with salutary food, or with trash, chaff, or poison?'”

And…

“THE TOTAL NEGLECT OF THE ART OF SPEAKING”

In the preface to the 1780 book A General Dictionary of the English Language, Thomas Sheridan wrote:

‘The total neglect of this art [speaking] has been productive of the worst consequences…in the conduct of all affairs ecclesiastical and civil, in church, in parliament, courts of justice…the wretched state of elocution is apparent to persons of any discernment and taste… if something is not done to stop this growing evil …English is likely to become a mere jargon, which every one may pronounce as he pleases.'”

When criticizing a new thing, whether it’s technology or an idea, just think that maybe, just maybe, there might be some advantages to counteract the disadvantages.

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by | May 6, 2014 · 9:35 pm

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