You are currently raising the first generation of children who have the option of talking or texting. Over 50% of today’s youth prefer texting to talking! Make no mistake about it. If your child has access to the internet, they could be doing positive things, such as watching a seemingly unlimited number of educational documentaries, or discovering new paths we never could have never imagined.
Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair is an internationally recognized clinical psychologist, school consultant and author. I have had the honor of hearing her speak twice. I cannot recommend enough to all parents to read her book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age (Harper). In this book Dr. Steiner-Adair examines ways in which technology and media are putting our children at risk at every stage of development, while challenging what it means to be a family. She shares real-life stories from her clinical practice, from her work with educators and parents, and from extensive interviews with students from pre-school through high school and beyond. Some of these stories can sincerely give a parent nightmares. Easy access to the Internet and social media has erased the boundaries that protect children from the unsavory aspects of adult life, and Steiner-Adair helps her audiences to understand the psychological risks and fallout that children are experiencing, often with their parents unaware. Here is a 10-minute TED talk by Dr. Steiner-Adair that I highly recommend all parents watch as a baseline for understanding the scale of challenges the internet presents to raising children. There are several longer videos of her speaking on Youtube – one of the wonderful benefits of our digital age.
Last year I met with all the parents of an 8thgrade generation in Macedonia. All the students were doing fine academically, but I had a concern that I brought to all the parents’ attention. Their children were not sleeping enough. I knew this from listening to their conversations and also from the hours indicating when they were posting homework etc. One of the most dramatic impacts of technology is the decline of the quality and quantity of sleep. The sleep chemical melatonin is influenced by the constant glow from screens. So keeping technology is likely to interfere with your sleep and affects your general state. What is even more serious is that people become addicted to technology. This has a detrimental effect on a person's health and social life, and destroys social and family bonds. Among other mental problems caused by computers, is a new type of stress called Chronic Smartphone Stress. It is caused by notifications (or their absence), constant anticipation of a message or email. If a person doesn’t get enough attention, this can make you feel stressed or even depressed. Excessive information space, exaggerated online reality, internet overuse, and social comparison, are all factors potentially provoking depressive behavior.
There are so many more positive ways for our children to spend their time. Last week, one of our high school students, Andrés Páez, traveled to Macas in Morona Santiago, to deliver the 323 pairs of shoes he collected in the Fun Run. The shoes were given to the Shuar leader from the Taisha community. Approximately 50 members of the community attended the event to receive donated shoes. He also brought toys and some clothes for the children. He had learned that a group of single mothers and their children would attend the event and took on this additional challenge to further support them. To thank him, and everyone in our community who donated shoes, women performed a traditional dance. Andrés has told us how proud he felt to represent our school and our community which helped with the donations. Andrés would like to express his gratitude to all our community for allowing him to have this very positive experience. No, Andrés – thank you!
Your experience exemplifies our Mission of inspiring empathetic and ethical student leaders.