Wired Up?

I have been hoping for an opportunity to sit down and write about this topic I have had on my mind for a while now, and today the opportunity has arrived, because Stacey McCarter is in the office for the day to relieve some of the burden that has happily fallen upon us of responding to all the recent inquiries about our wonderful school. In his capacity as registrar, Nathan McFarland has been extremely busy responding to all these inquiries and Jen Lynch has a very busy job already, so Mrs. Lange and I have been doing a little front desk duty and some substituting for sick teachers as well as our usual "stuff" and my blog has been ignored. Today I plan to remedy this.

There has been a lot of buzz lately in and out of educational circles about the effect of digital technology on our young people. A recent issue of an educational periodical I subscribe to used the term 'screenagers' to describe adolescents who spend hours a day online, on their phones, on in front of a television, the boundaries between these technologies becoming increasingly blurred since you can now make phone calls from your computer (where you can also watch TV shows), you can watch TV and surf the Internet from your smartphone, and you can access Internet content from your television set. The most recent issue of TIME magazine says that on average, children from 8 to 18 spend 7 hours and 38 minutes per day using entertainment media, often multitasking by texting while watching TV or some other combination of technologies. The concern is for what all this screen time is doing to the brains of our young people: Is all of this technology/media use re-wiring the minds of our kids?

The article says that we have created a culture of distraction, where we do not focus on any one thing, but try to attend to many stimuli in our environments simultaneously. Biologically speaking, the center for focusing in our brains, the hippocampus, is not being exercised, so we are being programmed to focus less and we are losing the ability to apply abstract rules to new problems. Distracted multitaskers learn things as we learn habits, using the procedural memory part of the brain, which is only useful for repetitive tasks like tying your shoes, driving a car, or assembly line work. Do we want our children to be able to do sustained thinking, high level thinking, the thinking that leads to success in school and in good careers? I think we do. I think we want our kids to be able to focus and to be able to apply principles to new problems and situations that are not exactly like the one given as an example in the textbook or shown on the board by the teacher.

The author of the TIME article said that his concern was that in a world where we can be connected 24/7, we are subject to all those competing for our attention unless we choose to disconnect. Some of us sleep with our phones beside our pillows and wake up to the buzz of an incoming text message which deprives us of much-needed sleep. We see students coming to school exhausted because they are talking on the phone, texting, playing video games, etc., when they should be sleeping at night. The double whammy of lack of sleep and a brain wired for distraction is a surefire recipe for trouble of some sort in school. I shudder when I think that people like this are driving on the highway with me - sleep deprived and easily distracted.

One last thing I will mention here in passing, but hope to address in the future, is the danger of your child being infected by pornography. Pornography is everywhere in the digital age and it is targeting children, trying to hook them when they are young and impressionable. It is easy to access and it is easy for pornographers to prey upon the minds of our children. Are you sure your child has not been exposed? Giving your child a device that can connect to the Internet can be like handing your child a loaded gun. That wi-fi connected iPod Touch with access to funny YouTube videos? It can also broadcast filth, things would would not allow your child to watch on the family television. I am asking you to be aware, to be vigilant, to protect your children so that are not victimized by the evil that is stalking them in this world.

I love technology. It is all I can do not to run out and buy myself an iPad today and a Kindle tonight. I have a personal computer and an iPod Touch, so I am not some Luddite who despises technology. What I am saying is that we need to be so very, very careful with what technology we allow our children to possess and the potential dangers that they and our families could face because Satan is going to use the technology to spread his message just as much as we are trying to use it to spread the Gospel.

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