My days lately have been broken up into three parts: mornings teaching English to teenagers, afternoons until 5 with kids 8-12 yrs, and then freelance stuff all evening until late into the night when I fall asleep. It….is not awesome. But at least I finished up my contract work yesterday and have my evenings back to myself, which is sorely needed. But anyway, I’ve been thinking some old curmudgeonly thoughts lately and wanted to write them down.
Basically it is this-in the afternoons I’m in a new situation in my work life, one where I’m taking a group of children around on various activities daily. No actual teaching, just facilitating experiences. My school asked me to do it for a couple of weeks, so I said sure. The kids are from different countries and aren’t all in the same morning class, nor are they in England for the same amount of time, so it’s hard for them to make personal connections with one another. But my issue is how connected they are to their toys! And this is where the whole “get off my lawn” part comes in.
Every time we have any sort of break, or even when we are just walking to our activity-to the pottery cafe, or the mini golf course, or the pizza making lesson-at least half of the kids pop in their headphones and ignore everything and everyone around them. They all have smart phones. Again-these are 8-12 year olds. They can’t sit for two minutes without getting out the iPad to play a game or get on their facebook. It’s 1) pretty annoying, and 2) terrible for their social skills. We consistently have time at the end of the afternoon where we go into an empty classroom after our activity ends and wait for their parents to come get them. I let them draw on the board or show them word games like hangman and all that good stuff, but at least half of them are attached to their phones/tablets, letting out huge sighs every thirty seconds. And I’m not meant to be teaching since it’s an activity course, so I don’t really stop them unless we are actively doing something, which is maybe my own problem, but that’s not really the point. These kids have absolutely no attention span, and very, very little interest in talking to new friends. And it seems to be the new norm.
Again, I want to say that I understand how hard it is to be alone in a classroom in a new country, and that at their age, being anti-social is sort of a ‘thing’. Kids are shy. And speaking a second language all day is so hard (putting kids in a second language environment for a full 9 hour day is, in a word, crazy and I have a whooooole lotta opinions on that too, for another day), but things are definitely different when you throw electronics into the mix. And I don’t know if it’s healthy and a new wave of human interaction, or if it’s really detrimental to their development. Children-people in general, really-can cling to their phones rather than make that bit of effort to make new connections. Lord knows I do sometimes. Even today when I was with the kids at mini golf, they all used their phones to figure out their scores at the end! FOR GOLF. Where it’s just 18 numbers, and none of them are big. Everyone just automatically reaches for their phone for everything, without even stopping to think if they can figure it out in their head.
I wonder if it’s just like how when I was in high school and people started to have cell phones and the older generation complained about the good ol’ days. Is this me complaining about the good ol days? Before everyone and their infant niece/grandma/high school calc teacher was on facebook and instagramming every sandwich they ever ate and google knew everything? Is this new generation going to be more savvy and able to utilize all that the world has to offer because that’s the world they’ve always known, or are we truly headed for idiocracy and Wall-E, where it’s all loud noises and bright colours and go go go all the time because, why not? There is validity in having to search for knowledge at some point in your life, and being forced to become at least marginally social rather than a being totally attached to metal and plastic.
What do you think? Am I overreacting? Or is it really as bad as it seems sometimes?
Man, am I scared to attempt to raise children of my own in this day and age. As much as I’d like to be a no TV/one hour of internet a day/trying to set a good example kind of parent, Jon and I are techy people who are more often than not attached to one device or another a majority of the time. We do lots of other stuff too, and we unplug for days at a time sometimes-we actively try to limit our technology use at times. But. As I type this (on my laptop, with pages open to buzzfeed, spotify, and bloglovin), Jon is playing a disgusting shoot-’em-up video game. This is a run of the mill evening. But the difference is-we didn’t grow up this way. We know what it was like when you couldn’t look up a map on your phone and were forced to find your own way. Or when you had to use an actual physical dictionary or, god forbid, an encyclopedia, and everything wasn’t a few taps away.
I just don’t know. I feel old. And I worry about these kids. If you can’t unplug when you’re in a different country far away, when can you?
My fingers are crossed that all my pessimism is for naught. I hope, I hope.