Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone.
A couple of weeks ago, the parent advisory committee (PAC) of our local secondary school sponsored an evening for parents and teachers addressing the growing concern of the (un)healthy relationship our students are developing with their smartphones. The event was attended by over 100 parents with children in Grades 6 through 12. At issue: Is the smartphone itself a useful and highly important tool in the digital millennium that should be harnessed to assist and support learners or is it simply a distraction? How do we (parents/educators) turn this ship around? Can we?
Similar ‘device relationship’ conversations are being held in hundreds of schools involving thousands of parents and educators throughout the western world regularly. As adults we are struggling to make our way through uncharted and murky waters supporting our children and their device relationship. After a panel of educators, parents, and digital media specialists shared their wisdom and knowledge, a frank conversation, sprinkled with exasperation and a desire for answers quickly gained momentum. Alas, none were immediately forthcoming. Some blamed the schools for lack of control. Others held the parents up as poor role-models of device management. Still others blamed society as a whole and our need for the latest and greatest. And even the corporations were heaped with blame.
There were, however, two themes or takeaways from the evening that seemed unanimous by most of the attendees: (1) we are all affected by this modern addiction in some way (we are not in this alone); and (2) we don’t know the long term effects that such an addictive behaviour will wrought (although research is revealing the short term consequences and they are not rosy). I can’t say that closure was achieved that evening. In fact, there were many more questions than viable solutions proffered. I do believe thought that many of the attendees are much more aware of the problem, seemed primed to take action and become more much scrutinizing of their personal habits and patterns of behaviour around their (un)healthy relationships with technology. Most importantly, the crowd of concerned adults recognized the conversation that was started in our community that evening is one that must never fade.
And for that I’m grateful.
And for that I have hope.