Tag Archives: technology

Absent Parents

It used to be that if you mentioned an “absent parent,” it meant a parent who wasn’t—for whatever reason—physically present with his or her child. Today, however, with the wonders of technology, it is possible to be present to be in a room with one’s child, even holding the child on one’s lap, and be completely absorbed in the important business call on one’s cellphone, the solitaire game on one’s netbook, shopping on one’s laptop, surfing the web on one’s smartphone, etc.

Whereas previously, parents pushing children on the swings would talk to their children (“Look at the squirrel!”) or each other, they’re now often engaged on the phone—physically present; mentally absent.

I’ve even seen a mother too engaged in her mobile phone conversations to stop talking while crossing a moderately busy four-lane street with four children in tow.

In the Handbook of Child Psychology: Social, emotional, and personality development (ed. Damon and Lerner, 2006), an essay “Socialization in the Family: Ethnic and Ecological Perspectives” by Parke and Buriel states: “Quality rather than quantity of parent-child interaction is the important predictor of cognitive and social development” (p. 438).

What is to be concluded, then, when it’s evident from a trip to the local playground or articles like “The Risks of Parenting While Plugged In” in the New York Times this week, that parents are often not spending quality time with their children?

They may be physically present, but their minds are engaged elsewhere, and parent-child interaction is reduced to the coincidence of bodies in proximity in space. This suggests that the cognitive and social development of at least some young children in our society is at risk—

Something to think about….




Technology and the Brain

Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal (“Does the Internet Make You Dumber?” by Nicholas Carr) and the New York Times (“Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price” by Matt Richtel) both ran articles on people whose mental agility was suffering from too much information all the time from the Internet. Both articles could leave the impression that technology is a real problem for people and has primarily negative consequences.

But people use their technology in very different ways, so it’s very important to carefully sort out exactly what these articles are saying . . . and what they’re not saying.

The Wall Street Journal article focuses on the results of constant distraction and interruption: an increase in “visual literacy skills” at the cost of less rigorous thought.

One story is told of a class at Cornell University in which some students could use Internet-connected laptops during a lecture, while other students had to shut their computers. Carr notes that the students who browsed the Web had less retention. But the article doesn’t address what happened if students took notes on their laptops vs. taking notes by hand. Notes taken with a laptop could potentially be more detailed (if one is a fast typist) and more legible – and therefore lead to greater and deeper understanding. This, however, is not addressed.

Carr contrasts the Internet and books, saying, “Reading a long sequence of pages helps us develop a rare kind of mental discipline.” Some of the use to which people put the Internet is reading long pages of journal articles and in-depth email communications. The Internet and “scattered” do not have to coincide. It’s perhaps a bit ironic that Carr doesn’t acknowledge that people are using the Internet to read the very article in which he is saying that using the Internet is making us lose our mental discipline!

Richtel’s article—which, being quite a bit longer than Carr’s, invites the reader to an even more in-depth and thoughtful experience—reports the tale of a man who overlooked the most important communication of his life in an overflowing email inbox. It broadens out to discuss his family and the effects that technology is having on their individual lives and family life.

Richtel discusses the stimulation provided by multitasking and an ongoing flow of information and the lasting effects becoming inured to being barraged can have on the brain and on the person’s extra-Internet life, with disconnected thoughts and inability to focus. Because the family Richtel focuses on is struggling with gadget over-use (addiction?) the article has a negative tone overall.

Both articles make the point that it is possible to use technology in ways that affect our brains, our work, and our family lives for the worse. What they don’t aim to do is show the other side of the picture. And that is why it’s very important for the reader to approach these articles with thought and care—to see what they’re saying and what they’re not saying. Once that’s clear, then considering whether one wants to make a change in the way one is using technology is a good thing to consider.

Homeschool Technology Classes

If your homeschool curriculum isn’t online or doesn’t include computer work you may want to supplement your current curriculum by adding some technology training. Starting in third and fourth grades students should be learning to type and have general keyboarding skills. They also have the ability to start learning how to use work processing programs and other computer programs besides games. There are many homeschool curriculums online so it is fun to see what you can do for free.

There are some great things offered online that can be useful to a homeschool parent. Luckily most things are offered for little or no money which makes them even more appealing.

Sense-Lang.org/typing – Offers an online flash program as well as a download. This teaches students to type touch and also includes tests. The online version is free of charge.

NimbleFingers.com – Free online typing program has various levels so it is not just for beginning typists but also intermediate and advanced. Teaches the importance of good posture at the keyboard and includes various exercises as well as games.

FreeTypingGame.net – Includes free games, lessons, scoreboard, tests and you can customize your lessons and games. You can even do typing lessons in other languages.

talibiddeenjr.amanahwebs.com/technology.htm – This site offers courses on web design, information processing, and graphic design. These courses are full of benefits for homeschool students or anyone just wanting to learn more about computer technology and programs.