[Week 30 of 52 Weeks to a Better Relationship With Your Child]
Let’s begin our discussion with a short story:
Once upon a time, the wheelbarrow was the latest technology. A Chinese politician claims to have invented it, so I’m guessing someone else did and he took credit. Whoever invented it, and it could have happened in more than one place at the same time, I can just hear the naysayers.
“Kids these days will not understand real work!”
“This generation will forget how to use their arms!”
Or when the printing press was invented –
“People spend too much time getting artificial and unverifiable information from books.”
“All those fictional stories are keeping kids from developing their own creativity or getting enough exercise.”
There is a tendency in each generation to define technology narrowly as that which has recently been invented. People often complain loudly about the supposed negative impact of new technology. However, the definition of technology is
the application of (scientific) knowledge for practical purposes
Some creative person comes up with another way to harness the features of the world around us in ways that enhance productivity. This leaves us freer to spend less energy struggling with some things. Sometimes it makes fun more practical and other times it makes work more practical. And sometimes fun and work overlap.
Don’t be like the TSA
Sometimes people view the latest technology like the TSA views forks. (In case you don’t know the TSA is the Transportation Security Agency that harasses everyone when they are trying to use an airplane.) The potential bad uses loom so largely in their minds that they forget that forks are quite useful and that most people use them to great advantage. There are many foods that are often eaten much more effectively and efficiently and with less frustration with a fork.
A fork was once the newest technology. I’m pretty sure someone said it would *make* people fat because they could eat too quickly. Those who grew up just using knives bemoaned the life lessons that eating with a knife taught them, all the while showing off their lip scars…
True, some people probably used forks poorly. Some people might have paid too much for forks. Did some people spend too much time admiring their forks? Maybe if you had never had a fork, you would too!
Those people with forks were probably alternately accused of having an unfair advantage because they could eat faster or of abandoning the natural ways of their ancestors. They were probably warned that forks would make their lives more stressful because they would have more time available to make more decisions. There were probably even those who claimed that eating with individual forks was a sign of feeling superior.
The bicycle versus the horse
Then there were bicycles. Strange mechanical contraptions that didn’t need to be fed or cleaned up after. Horses are wonderful creatures, but bicycles have some definite advantages, besides being generally more affordable. Bicycles don’t kick people in the head or bite. But once they were the new technology.
With bicycles, even kids could go farther faster. They could get more done or they could cause more trouble, whichever their choice was. It was not the fault of the bicycle. Deliveries could arrive faster and help could be sent for more easily. Should people have avoided bicycles because they were sometimes used to spread gossip faster or used as getaway vehicles? Don’t frustrate your children by falling into the “in my generation” accusations or skewed comparisons.
Does technology make children lazy?
The short answer is, No. Tools don’t make people lazy. People choose to be lazy no matter what the latest technology. If technology was so glaringly responsible for laziness, there probably wouldn’t be admonitions against laziness in the ancient scriptures of the Bible.
What technology gives is more choices. It is okay that you have a washing machine, so no one in the family has to spend hours every week washing clothes by hand. It is okay that you have your phone that lets you communicate faster so that information can be shared more quickly. Time is a scarce commodity. Technology, in a sense, expands time for more uses.
The difficulty of predicting creative thinking processes
It is very difficult to predict what is going to spark creativity in someone. When it comes to parents trying to make decisions about how their children interact with the latest technology, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer.
Some parents like to limit time on things like computer games because they want their children to do their chores or get exercise or talk to the rest of the family. Those are also admirable goals. Sometimes those goals can overlap. I have seen dads be able to play group video games with their kids while hours away on a business trip.
I know of one family who let their boys play on the computer with fairly unlimited access. Those boys got inspired to build computers from scratch and learned many things. They grew up to get great jobs in the computer industry. This article tells how one man’s son learned and applied business skills while playing Mario Maker.
I find it odd that while board games are considered an American tradition, interactive video games are often frowned on. Then there is the time-honored tradition of playing solitaire with cards or doing crosswords puzzles by yourself. A video game that someone plays by himself is basically the same.
What about basic neural and muscular development?
I remember when people said if you read too much you would need glasses. Now they have studies “proving” that letting children watch computer-type screens is very much detrimental. I can’t help but wonder if they are doing these studies on children who are left in childcare facilities all day. That would be like using a sample of orphanage children to test whether or not allowing books is harmful to parent-child relationships.
It is likely that any studies showing that children develop just fine when exposed to technology wouldn’t make the news. Data that doesn’t show something significant doesn’t sell. Talking about extremes does not address the reality for most people. People eat too much and get obese. We don’t say food is bad for everyone.
Obviously, I am skeptical about such studies.
Video games and business skills
I was talking with one of my daughters about this subject. She works in an office where internet communication is vital. Most of the business interactions are between far away offices. Being comfortable with the technology, as well as having habits of how to express things well over various internet communication venues is very important.This is likely to be a continuing and growing trend.
Some of the older employees seem to strain against internet communication or are very awkward with it. This might be partly because of lack of skills and partly because of seeing it as a necessary evil instead of a great tool. Unfortunately, this has caused some problems with clients, problems that could be avoided if technology was approached differently.
The mother of creativity
The saying is that necessity is the mother of invention. Invention is the result of creatively problem solving. Games often involve problem solving.
Some creativity is simply born of the desire to make things for enjoyment. For instance, I learned to make home movies on my computer for the fun of it. That lead to me being able to transition much more comfortably into making videos for my blog posts. For me it was started with playing.
We know that playing is an important part of creativity for children as well. I think there is reasonable evidence that we cannot predict how children (or anyone) will play with various technology. If we let them play with it, they may very well discover ways to make it even more useful.
Lessons in creative technology in the Tuttle Twin books.
This discussion of creativity and technology reminds me of recently reading one of the Tuttle Twin books, The Miraculous Pencil, to my 8 year old granddaughter. First of all, the story told in that book, The Miraculous Pencil, highlights how different people’s creativity can be put together in ways that nobody can predict to create products that we all can use. And make them fairly simple and inexpensive for us to get ahold of.
And secondly, I would like to mention that she was mesmerized by the story. She had not ever read any story like it. She asked very interesting questions and we had a very good time reading it.
You can see an image in the left sidebar showing about 12 of the Tuttle Twin books for younger kids. And if you buy through my link I get a small commission. I do highly recommend them.