Too much screentime for kids.

Are kids able to read anything further than three sentences or more exactly do they EVER read more than three sentences strung together? Like … things called ideas, instruction, information?

We as adults are kidding ourselves and more particularly kids themselves are kidding us all that this is ‘work’ or education or learning … when it is mostly anything but. I don’t mean the bright kids or those from motivated households, but I mean the kids from households where theres never any utterance of anything remotely connected to learning.

I can think of instances in even my limited social interaction where the adults seem apparently unable to contribute anything to a childs intellectual development. And then of course once age sixteen has passed them by and the exams fizzled to nothing everyone exhibits collective blindness as to how a valuable life opportunity/ waymarker has been allowed to drift past beyond reach. A vacuum of any hope to human potential.

We also as adults in this present age collectively somehow retain this silly notion that a laptop is ‘now essential’ for learning …. WHAT UTTER RUBBISH. What most average kids learn, or more correctly attempt to learn in a day I’m sure could quite easily be typed on one side of a sheet of A4; maybe even A5.

Perhaps the Russians are right on this, no child under eighteen is allowed to use a mobile phone.

Paper and books retain the images, facts and explanations forever, no matter how many times it takes until eventually ‘it sinks in’ and I know this myself from at later middle age still retaining the pleasure of ‘finding things out’ to quote Richard Feynman, making it a hobby to memorise things, little bits of foreign language, technical theory of various sorts. How we learn has been a fascination of mine most of my life, half a century and more. It is the ability to open the page again, to revisit again and again that sets it into ones mind, the weak point of screen based learning is that mostly its a once only experience, theres no pages to flick! Another weak point of screen learning is that theres too much faffing about to find what it is you want, I reckon any serious for instance medical student or professional engineer intending to pass exams will jettison the screen for a hard copy set text in book form, but anyway they will be bright and know the material already when plunged into exam prep.

And what of writing itself, gone is the effort and eventual mastery of a ‘good hand’ likewise the ability to make quick and efficient sketches and so many times we realise already kids and young adults can barely spell. Theres too many lame excuses from all concerned why this that and the other cannot be made to happen. The antidote is called hard effort and application and this means the ordinary and the struggling are now worse off than they have ever been and to my mind certainly book based learning can be called the most efficient reward for time spent, little in life that is valuable is gained without a little pain or effort.

Minds eye visualisation is hardly mentioned but once developed sets you apart from the vast majority, its also my experience minds eye visualisation is much reduced by an overwhelming reliance on a screen. This I believe is under-reported and under-researched.

I came from a ‘humble’ background, I recall vividly over fifty years ago meeting a slick new potential uncle that was technically literate (college ‘n suchlike) and could actually recall and set down on paper circuit diagrams and explain it all and most certainly had this ten year old enthralled.

Another case in point, an ex g/f has two grandchildren, age ten and fifteen, which up until December a web fascination fed only from a phone screen is now a laptop and x-box for the just turned ten year old girl (!) and a self bought laptop a few months ago for the boy of fifteen that now spends all night camped out in the parked caravan; I wonder at what time he eventually gets to sleep? I’ve already highlighted to the grandmother the dangers of all this, the reality of web addiction, and so what happens is yet more addictive gizmos are bought for them! Am I speaking a language they understand, does it sink in …. obviously not!

I predict the lively bright ten year old girl within three months will be solemn, uncommunicative and increasingly obese. She will be obsessed with the utterly pointless so called ‘social media’ and hobby activity will be a thing of the past. Progress? I think not.

The bright and advantaged will fly ahead as more than ever, the ordinary the slow are increasingly an underclass, disadvantaged by the over zealous application of screens and keyboards. Art, creativity and handicraft, modelmaking and inventive play for the younger kids and striving to make things with their hands and make them better each time is increasingly looking to be practically a Victorian oddity in its total abandonment. So does this mean the effort to do better with increasing skill in hand eye co-ordination and visualition are becoming near extinct … looks to be so!

I had two years ago when lockdown started produced two very good worksheets for them, intending to get them hopefully with my input to lay their work out better on paper, twenty questions or topics or mini projects were covered … did either of them do anything from this attention of mine ….. nothing, zilch.

Jaron Lanier who knows all about things tech implores us all to dump the screen and keyboard to dump facebook and phony titled ‘social media’ … and how very right he is.

postscript, lets bullet point a few ideas of what troubles me of endless screentime for kids and the obscenity of mindless parents desperate to buy them more crap at every opportunity …

  • reduced attention span.
  • inability to follow a thread of educational information or explanation nor any desire to do so.
  • reduced vocabulary.
  • a world view and view of life formed by less than ideal pundits and other such nonsense makers, advertising and clever attention grabbing algorithms.
  • reduced interaction with parents and family relations, no sense of past, no anecdotal recollection.
  • becoming isolated from realtime face to face human interaction, losing the ability to evaluate who is kosha, who is spouting nonsense or fantasy.
  • impaired ability with pen and paper, cannot sketch, writing poor, atrocious layout on paper.
  • blind to any decent tutoring coming from another adult, if it don’t come off a screen they just don’t want to know.
  • seldom if ever visiting the same page twice ie for reinforcement of material learnt.
  • a world devoid of Art, of the achievements of human endeavour, many things of beauty and creativity since the Stone Age all eradicated in a generation.
  • hanging on to extremely trivial social media posts, curled up in a chair with zero exercise.
  • an acute sense of living in the here and now, trivia rules okay; history eliminated.
  • kids do nothing to please their elders, their focus or loci is the screen.
  • and parents that are no different from the kids.

Not a pretty picture is it?

Its reckoned …

From a news article recently that teenagers have the mental upset equivalent to low level mental patients of the 1950’s. I wonder to what extent this is true?

It certainly cannot be a good thing to be feeding from a screen ever readily presenting what we crave, or the bombardment of colour graphics and endless ‘information’ and activity, its all intentionally designed to keep you hooked, to crave more. These things are unwholesome, they are not of human type.

The term ‘social’ media is mostly a bit of a joke, scraps and snippets of nonsense traded and ‘liked’ and pinged in circles of equal nonsense. Theres not much reality for many, no practical work, no actual building of knowledge or skill other than being able to text quickly. Goodness knows how this has diminished attention span and halted many or most from involvement in the world around them, they build create nothing.

What is intelligent behaviour? Certainly its not often to be seen when holding a mobile device, theres no chance whatsoever of hearing or reading the words of wisdom gained by previous generations, kids are held in a never ending present moment. Its my personal trick sans smart phone for instance each dreaded ‘Bank Holiday’ to choose a topic that interests me, the last one a few day ago was ‘the Gothic vault rib’ and wow I learnt a lot even from just a few ten minute sessions dipping into a couple of books here that include that subject, its called ‘on paper’.

Our possible skills and abilities are being trivialised, cast to the wind by this perpetual need by so many to be ‘connected’. Clever kids and those from more enlightened lets say educated households know fine well in their educational journey (lets say to a professional career) that the smart phone needs definitely to be turned off. Therefore from this statement we can say that society is more than ever being stratified into the educated and the uneducated, those that can reach out of the bubble and those stuck in it. Or could we say those hooked to the bloody thing separate from those somehow still able to build something in time and space not needing to be plugged in and recharged. This is tragic. I’m sure we are discarding human development skills (ie hand, brain, soul) and a myriad of social interconnections. And it also proves that in many ways the web, the smart phone is actually the denigrator and potential enemy of the ordinary person. Perhaps in the coming decades ignoring climate catastrophe of course we would see the emergence of a definite underclass, what used to be called the workers; oh dear ripe for fascist thinking.

People have their appetite ‘to belong’ satisfied by joining groups of like minded folk, witness Jan 6th and the stupidity and barbarism of storming The Capitol. No wonder quite sadly you add them to ‘your feed’ …. feeding off such moronic nonsense is indeed what is happening and results in huge assemblies of hot-heads from far and wide.

I personally have never much got anywhere online for my social life, maybe a couple of times in a decade but I would now never give the effort to find them in the first place by digital means, but give me real world one-to-one and I can engage a person, bring them out of themselves and am often quite amazed at the quality of interaction.

What the web (apart from reasonable better quality news sites) cannot do is offer a balanced view, a more open debate. Where people after their visit are a little more enlightened than when they arrived a few minutes ago. Closed groups do indeed shut out light and air, they breath their own stench so to speak. Things that should be much improved or improving such as minority rights, womens rights, free movement of immigrants and a safe haven extended, education for the poor, a broader more interesting education offering possibilities are all being throttled and cast back to previous generations, the infamous Father Coglan would have wholeheartedly embraced the web, ie a spewer of hate.

By means of the web idiosyncratic individuals can be manipulated and their unsound, illogical or cruel and uncharitable views and opinions enabled and amplified so as to carry too much importance, importance beyond any merit of their arguament. We used to have the cornerstone of good manners, considerate behaviour when meeting people face to face, a desire to fit in society and help the general good. But its obvious web engines, sites and algorithms or whatever prefer to promote vitriol and upset in many cases; they want you to keep clicking ever yet more material. The web can destroy any sense of neighbourhood, yes the local church group can link up and natter among themselves but i reckon for every one of them there will be fifty more unsavoury web users that feel empowered by the echo chamber they visit online.

I don’t think theres anything we can do other than structure kids lives as much as possible to turn the bloody thing off and try to set a good example, thats of course if you can get them to drag their eyes away from the screen in the first place. I’ve always reckoned far better to have anything web in black and white only!

Users are being manipulated on two levels most certainly, firstly to keep attention to the device, to receive or encounter more new product and its advertising and its link take-up but secondly this also leaves whole societies, nations and shell we say special interest groups wide open to nefarious manipulation, witness the rise of 1930’s bigotry of trump and the strengthening of other unhealthy intolerant movements. We are now reaping the results of ‘immediate connection’ for like minded individuals. I don’t think human nature possesses sufficient magnaminity to outride this potentially disastrous consequence.

Interestingly the last mobile phone I encountered was that of my now deceased wife, it was say year 2000, I’m up in the countryside and i couldn’t operate it, and being the placid laid back considerate person that i am, I destroyed it under my boot, it could no longer humiliate me. Sod technology I say, its making fools of all of us.

In many ways we are the poorer for having the web.

I have encyclopedias, I have books, I am not a formally educated man and make no pretence to be of such, but I’m not stupid either and things must be bad when I can answer usually quicker than the contestants many of the questions on University Challenge!

copyright 2021 E&OE