A Line In The Virtual Sand
Let’s face it. Technology has taken over.
Gone are the days of the bulky phone books I used to sit on to reach my plate at Thanksgiving dinner, gone are the analog address books we used to scribble names in, and gone are Selectric typewriters that filled our “high tech” classrooms way back when. All things passed giving way to the new age and influence of smartphones, laptops and the internet. The world is changing before our very eyes. A written correspondence that once took days to deliver through parcel post can now be accomplished more simply and effectively with a few clicks of a mouse. Owning the latest gadget or gizmo can be exciting, and for anyone wagering that the internet and new fangled technology is just a passing fancy – think again. They’re here to stay.
Recently posted on COVD’s blog was a fantastic and thought provoking article, written by Dr. Rochelle Mozlin, about how technology may soon be overstepping its bounds and influencing the lives of infants and young children long before their visual and cognitive systems are prepared to deal with such information. If you’ve not yet read it, I highly recommend you check it out! Like it seems to for Dr. Mozlin, this concept gnaws at me for a myriad of reasons. And as she always does with her great writing, Dr. Mozlin has me thinking.
A long time ago, but not that long really, we were hunters. The human visual system was designed to see far distances over great spaces as we worked to survive amongst the other mammals on earth. As our evolution surpassed the creatures around us, humans learned to utilize our upper brain and build tools which allowed us to hunt less, not work as hard, not fear our environment as much, and in the end spend our time watching baseball, checking email, and ordering take-out from our favorite local establishment. Never losing it’s value in the process, though, has been the element of experience.
It’s why we treat ourselves to lavish vacations rather than just staring at a website that could offer a glimpse of what is out there, it’s why we go to our favorite sporting event rather than always watching it on television, and it’s why we enjoy visiting our children and grandchildren as opposed to the occasional emailed photo. Technology is great, but real experience is, well, real and better.
So where do we draw the line? Where is the line that determines what real life experience can offer and what our new technological virtual world can teach us? Where is the line that determines which aspects of our lives we will allow technology to influence? Have we already crossed it?
There are many solid theories out there on how to manage the developmental experience of a child. Whether you choose Sigmund Freud, Jean Piaget or the more recent Doman and Delecato, the messages all contain one common element – the human mind and body need movement and interaction to enrich proper development. It’s why kids need to run and jump, to throw rocks, to eat dirt, to touch the hot stove, to play in the swimming pool, to ride their bikes, to climb trees, to skin their knees and above all else – engage with each other. Experience counts.
To be clear, I’m not knocking technology. Like everyone else, I have my fair share of “toys” that plug in or make noise. What I am questioning, from a visual development standpoint, is the timing of when these toys are introduced. A baby’s overall body development, vision included, will not benefit from learning to touch the proper one by one inch square on this lighted up piece of glass. It just doesn’t work that way. They will learn to think, maneuver and to solve problems by doing, just as we did. Let them run, jump and play in the real world while they’re growing up. Enjoyment in the virtual world will find them as adults.
Have we become so handicapped as a society that we need to plop our kids down in the corner of the living room with their favorite device so they will stay out of our hair? Have we decided that an “app” designed to teach spelling and counting is somehow better than playing with blocks and scribbling on a piece of paper? I hope not.
My parent’s solution for my frequent misbehavior as a child was simple – “go outside and play”. Sage words on visual development from two people who barely graduated high school. After all, you’d be hard pressed to find any book ever written by anyone on visual or motor development that included the words “would benefit from more screen time.”
Think about it.