Several times this week, I have felt old. I am not old, merely middle-aged, but I am old compared to my tween and teen students and their world is very different from mine at that age. This can be a tricky thing for parents and teachers to balance and remember. I know for me, the focus on screened entertainment and communication for that generation borders on overwhelming. I obviously blog, tweet, Link, Face, and Insta but I view each of these as a necessity to stay relevant in my field rather than using it as a relationship point. I don’t mean to offend those that are on social media, but rather state the preference that I enjoy connecting in real life. Whether going on a hike, having someone over for dinner, or just plain picking up the phone and calling….and I mean just talking, not actually seeing the person on video. Maybe that makes me old fashioned.
At the same time, I recognize that this is in no way the experience of people under 20. There are better sources than me for the argument for or against gaming and social media and the long term impact of both. A quick google search can find you years of research by institutions of higher education and medical professionals. My concern, of course, is for the students that have a different mode of communication and interaction before they even get in front of the screen. I vacillate almost daily on whether screens are good or bad. In the end, like most things, they are likely a grey mix in the middle. I have seen students light up when they have an opportunity to share their latest digital conquest. Quiet students find the language to express themselves while talkative students pipe down and listen to others. Shy students enjoy being the center of a cluster around the tablet and sensitive students manage their tactile defenses while sitting next to a partner vying for the next set of points. Aren’t these moments social in nature? Aren’t these interactions relevant practice? And are these students learning valuable skills that will make them more successful in the world in which we live?
Oh that other side of the coin. How you always seem to flip up. I fear for students who spend so many hours each day on screens that their nutrition and sleep are disrupted. I know the challenge for some parents who can’t engage with their children to teach them daily skills around the house. My heart feels for those grandparents who have nothing in common with this generation and therefore both parties lose out. I am troubled by the lack of physical capacity that this generation seems to have because they don’t go out and climb fences and trees and make mud pies. These messy and unscripted, unscreened moments are what I love about life. I prefer them actually. I hope my students can spend at least some time out in the 3D world to find that for themselves.