Yesterday my Facebook newsfeed was flooded with links to this article, which tells me that something about it really resonated with people…even people without kids. Steve Jobs allegedly restricted his kids’s use of tech and apparently that means we should to. Seems like some kind of reverse psychology marketing ploy.
I think there’s some merit to this article. For example, I would agree that we need to carefully evaluate our voracious appetite for technology. I’m of the opinion that both adults and young people need to consider the impact an over reliance on all sorts of technology has on our lives, our relationships, and our ability to support ourselves. For example, our current food system in North America is dependent on a number of technologies that, should they be disrupted or no longer viable because of a natural disaster or economic collapse, render us disturbingly vulnerable.
Play outside with [your kids] and surround them with nature; they might hate you, but they will absolutely thank you for it later, because I’m willing to bet that’s exactly how many of us feel about it now that we are older.
What bothers me about this article are the easy assumptions it makes about the value (or lack of value) of not just technology, but also different kinds of ‘play’ for young people, based on presuppositions about what children are and how they ought to play. To clarify, I’m in no way advocating a ‘free-for-all’ approach to child rearing. Making informed decisions about your child’s media/tech consumption based on your child’s individual needs is not only smart, but important. Young people need to learn balance, and like adults, sometimes need guidance–some of us more than others.
We were the last generation to play outside precisely because we didn’t have smartphones and laptops.
But by correlating the decline in outdoor play uncritically with the increasing use of technology, we loose site of number of important reasons why children’s play is being compromised. For example, lack of outdoor space for play, increasing fears about safety, the reluctance of allowing children to play without adult supervision, and the increasing management of children’s daily activities. It should be born in mind that the children and childhoods that are the subjects of this article are limited to those with access to technology like computers, smart phones and tablets–it in no way accounts for children whose access to technology is limited to schools or public libraries. Furthermore, by comparing children and youth who are growing up in the 21st century with older generations who grew up without mobile technology is to falsely stake claim to a so-called golden age of childhood where life was simple and children were in their ‘natural’ place: playing outside. This picture of a pure childhood unfettered by the temptations of technology is a form of adult nostalgia and depicts a childhood that most historians will assure you has never existed.