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Technology abuse and a generation of iCHILDREN

Look across our community (and others for that matter) and it is clear that we are a walking, breathing smartphone appendage (I am certainly guilty at times)...the wonderful little devices controlling us as much as we control them. Let us pause before we usher into the world a generation of iCHILDREN!

Perhaps I am clutching desperately and naively to the notion of a bygone era of kids running outside to play with each other...but the pragmatic part of me sets the bar lower. At this point, the hope is only that kids treat each other with respect and speak directly to each other rather than through cryptic devices or websites. One can also hope to chip away at lengthening attention spans that in some cases seem to be about as long as an instagram message.

Maybe I’m wrong, maybe today’s youth will turn out to be better communicators with healthier relationships, marriages and workplaces. That would be awesome. It just seems like a dangerous experiment that we are conducting.

I am amazed by how many really young kids (I consider fourth to eighth graders really young) have smartphones and how ill-equipped they are to manage the privilege and responsibility. While home is obviously most critical and where most habits are formed, perhaps schools can be a place where proper (and improper) usage is taught.

While some school districts around the country (and undoubtedly the world) have banned cell phones and web-enabled mobile communication devices, some have embraced them as ubiquitous conduits for learning and claim success. The answer may lie somewhere in the middle. Clear rules and consistency of their enforcement seem to be the keys to success.

At the younger ages (junior high/middle school and lower), considering a complete ban seems logical. Take your kids’ phones and just look at the madness (yes, mostly innocent but madness nonetheless)...and you are probably only scratching the surface of their digital lives. It is almost irrefutable that the devices are an enormous part of the socialization process today for most kids. There is a direct correlation to the health of our children’s digital experiences and their overall performance, productivity, health and happiness at school and at home. So why not try as a community to improve or at least better manage the experiences?

Of course, the riddle is how? There are many questions to be asked of ourselves, our children and our teachers and school administrators. Kids today are profoundly aware, intelligent, savvy and incredibly capable. They also have tools, information and the potential to do harm at their fingertips to a degree that even a generation ago could not be imagined.Let us not lose the art of “old-fashioned” (non-device enabled) communication and reinforce the importance of being able to look a friend, a parent, a teacher, a coach or someone else in the eye and say something intelligent, compassionate or funny...or, as importantly, to face into challenges.

We can all step in and help to enhance the emotional health of the children in our community. Hoping they navigate the minefield of today’s adolescent experience (no small part of which is digital) is probably a recipe for disappointment for all concerned. So let’s pause, talk about it and try some things to help. Thank you.

Jerry Gilbert is a concerned parent and a Lake Oswego resident.