Thursday, November 11, 2010
Virtually Absent - Kids and Computers
I am going to be radical again. I've been wanting to write about this subject for a while, why computers and kids don't mix, certainly not in early childhood. I am not going to write about how too much computer time is bad for kids, how it wrecks havoc with their attention spans, how it's a medium that encourages passive as opposed to active learning which is necessary for proper brain development or problematic content, etc. All of these things have been researched and documented and written about. I'd like to approach the subject from a slightly different angle. The problem with virtual environments is that it is something that gives an illusion of reality, even an experience of reality, but is not real. Authentic Judaism and mitzva (Torah commandments) observance on the other hand is all about becoming more real. It's about breaking through the illusion that is this world, to get in touch with and develop our deepest self. It's about breaking down the barriers inside and out that keep us away from true holiness and achieving our potential as spiritual beings. Virtual reality on the other hand, creates an illusion that is very appealing and being very addictive, gets one stuck in this illusion instead of breaking away from it. That's why I am not a fan of virtual social networks such as Facebook. They give an illusion of a realtionship and an illusion of communication but in reality it's a pale shadow of the real thing. A cubic zirconium might look beautiful but it is not a real diamond and will never be. Internet is very useful, it gives one access to lots of information and instantly too but it can never substitute for real learning or real thinking but often gives you the illusion that it does. It's a problem for adults as well, one can spend one's whole life online, but it's even more problematic for children, who as yet don't have clearly defined boundries of where fantasy ends and reality begins, who are still in the process of making sense of this world and their place in it. So at best computers and the internet should serve in supporting roles when it comes to learning of any sort and not usurp the center stage as is often the case. Why cheat ourselves and our children?