Sunday January 17th 2016
An article by Richard James Rogers: High school Science teacher and author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management.
As I sit at a delightful little Starbucks at Bangkok’s Central Ladprao shopping mall (with iced Earl Grey tea on tap!), I am compelled to reflect on a distressing article I read earlier this week which ought to make all teachers think about how to update our school curricula to reflect modern trends and issues facing our schoolchildren.
The article I am referring to is the shocking report by Natural News on Thursday which makes it explicit that more people than ever before are turning into mental ‘zombies’ due to over – exposure to smartphones (dumbphones?) and other handheld devices. People are walking right into traffic, falling off cliffs, getting mugged and even falling off train platforms whilst being distracted by their favourite gadget. Smart device distraction is fast becoming a global epidemic, with America’s own National Safety Council reporting that 80% of all emergency room visits now result from falls caused by smart-device distraction.
As teachers, shouldn’t we be educating our learners about the perils of succumbing to this ‘digital hypnosis’? As a regular commuter on Bangkok’s BTS Skytrain, and a frequenter of many a shopping mall (a new one seems to pop up every five minutes in this city), I feel like a lone ranger in a sea of brain-dead automatons. Am I the only one who’s awake? Am I the only one who’s aware of my surroundings?
Our students deserve to experience this reality as we experienced ours as kids: by playing with our friends (actually playing: physically, not virtually), getting mucky, running through puddles and streams and building sandcastles on beaches. We weren’t concerned with taking selfies and wefies every five minutes, and we didn’t photograph our food before we ate it.
I worry that our young people are losing a sense of who they really are and what they’re really capable of: substituting a life of substance for a digital puppet – show in which beauty, ‘likes’, popularity and number of ‘friends’ are the new success criteria.
Social media has a lot to answer for – but should we blame the knife that stabbed, or the person who wielded it? Many people capitalise on the benefits of social media for audience engagement, communication and marketing. Perhaps our PSHE and ICT curricula need to focus on showing young people how to use these tools effectively, whilst also teaching about the effects of digital addiction and how this can be fatal, as well as how it can be avoided and overcome.