As loving parents, we aspire to give our children the very best start to life. That requires that we create stability by putting a roof over their heads, feed them nutritious food, and care for their emotional well being. Above all else, we ensure our children get a good education. Education is the key to ensuring they have the knowledge and skills needed in order to thrive on their own, long after we are gone.
Researchers have sought to utilize the latest developments in technology to help our children have access to an even wider pool of educational tools. This includes educational videos, interactive games, and specially designed applications. Many have found these innovations to be quite effective. Educators across the globe have since found that while helpful, technology has also served to the detriment of our children’s education.
The Great Debate
Many researchers, educators, and parents have argued that technology should not be blamed for the quality of a student’s education. After all, without technology, we would not have made a number of scientific discoveries. Just think about what we have learned about the human body since the invention of x-ray machines. But our aim is not to encourage technophobia. It is merely to highlight the dangers of our dependency on technology and raise awareness about how it affects our kids.
We have since isolated the problem and noted that ‘screen time’ has significantly increased over the years. This refers to the amount of time spent on mobile devices and television. Children were once encouraged to read a book if they were bored or trying to grasp a particular topic. Parents also once spent a few hours each day interacting with their children.
Unfortunately, it now requires far more time to make ends meet and parents have resorted to allowing ‘screens’ to babysit their children. The average child in 2019 is thus allowed significantly more screen time than children five or ten years ago. There has also been a noteworthy decline in test scores in STEM subjects that require critical thinking. Many argue that this just represents a shift in the way we think as a society.
Teachers have noted that their students are simply unable to concentrate in class as they once did. Research has since found a direct link between a child’s ability to concentrate and their screen time. As you can imagine, this poses a number of very noteworthy problems. These issues must be addressed in the short term since it is our children, the future of our nation that are being left at a disadvantage.
The Link between Screen Time and Brain Activity
A $300 million study commissioned in 2018 and published by the National Institutes of Health has observed how screen time affects a child’s developing brain. In this study, it was found that the brain of children who spent more than three hours per day on screen time experience a premature maturational process. In one instance, the significant amounts of screen time caused the cortex to become unusually thin. This is the area of the brain responsible for critical thinking, memory, language skills, and a number of essential functions or abilities.
The results of the study were not conclusive. The researchers were unable to definitively state that screen time was without a doubt the cause of these developments. There is, however, a noteworthy correlation between increased screen time and decreased brain activity.
Social Media and Critical Thinking
Teachers have become so frustrated with their students who appear to be addicted to their phones and social media, that there has been a mass exodus from the classroom. Statistics indicate a global shortage of teachers. These teachers often complain that students today are only capable of first-step thinking, which is the kind of thought process required to scroll through thousands of images on social media. Critical thinking, however, requires the ability to link concepts and form opinions.
Whether we can definitively blame technology or not, the results clearly indicate that there is much work to be done. If we allow this trend to continue, our children will have to live in a world without critical thinking engineers, doctors and other essential professions.