Yesterday, after a fun day of dancing, singing, and dramatic play with 1st and 2nd graders, I went out for bus duty and my heart sank. So many of the children who had creative ways of thinking (during their Performing Arts class with me or when I saw them playing on the playground) had become entirely new people. Tech Zombies.
While visiting with their friends, parents kept their children quiet with a menagerie of devices. Though they had not all been zombified (read: some were playing or watching with a partner), most were just a figment of the awesome kid I had seen just hours earlier.
What are we doing to our kids? And why are we allowing technology to take away their kid-ness?
Often, when we think about child rearing in the olden days, we think of girls in frilly party dresses and boys in their perfectly pressed dress shirts. Memories (and media) tell us that children would play peacefully in the garden or with friends, but in the house, they were to be seen and not heard.
The children of today are viewed as rambunctious, an aggressive lion evolved from the careful cub. We view child rearing today as an opportunity to teach children from their surrounding and take risks. This means that loud, playful, busy children fill neighborhood parks and local playgrounds.
But is that what’s really going on?
Think about the last restaurant you went to or the last place you shopped. What were the children doing? I bet they were on devices. Whether they had their a child-protected iPad, a parent’s cell phone, or their own small gaming system, it was probably pretty likely the kids were on a device.
Why is that? In an era where we are SO consumed with giving our children every opportunity to learn and explore, why are we taking it from their down time? Is it so they are seen and not heard?
Maybe we can help kids spend their empty moments in more productive ways: balancing things on cutlery (physics) or writing on paper napkins (literacy) in a restaurant while they could be examining the ingredients list (science) or comparing the weight of products in the shopping cart (math).
Let’s be honest parents… sometimes we Just. Need. A. Break! So fine. Give them a device. But let’s also be mindful that kids need to be kids. They need to run. They need to climb. They need to explore. And they need to learn from their surroundings.
And we need to let them and encourage them to be kids.
These pictures were from the yard duty that prompted my musings here. This bunch of kids explored how water moves and how they could use tools of different sizes to get the water to move in new and interesting ways. They also strategized about how to clean their feet before recess was over using communication skills and collaboration to solve problems.
It’s not rocket science parents. And it also took NO effort on my part.
…I just let them be kids!
So here’s my million dollar teacher tip: put away the devices and let them get bored. They’ll figure it out!