Christmastime is nearly upon us. Many parents are spending these last few shopping days searching for gifts for their children. Electronic games will be on most children’s Christmas lists. This age is such an exciting one when it comes to technology and the way it has advanced games, making them more life-like and realistic. Communication within games, online games to be specific, seems like one of the most significant advancements of all because it allows us to play in community with others. A down-side to the advancement in gaming communication, though, is that one may not always know with whom he or she is playing and communicating.
Parents who send their children to classical schools often have to defend that decision to their siblings, their friends, and even their own parents. The conversations can be tense, and especially so if everyone involved received a free public education. It isn’t as though your friends and relations know a lot about education; it is more likely their opinions have been informed by public debate, federal initiatives, and the latest trends. If the parents defending classical are sacrificing financially to afford the education, they often find themselves doubly on the defense. Points of debate include uniforms, classroom rigor, Latin, and always, always classical education’s lack of emphasis on STEM.
With increasing frequency technology makes such forward leaps that it can no longer be ignored. When was the last time you saw a horse drawn carriage plodding into town for the weekly shopping trip, for example? Automobiles are all the rage now! That example will be too dated for most readers, so how about this one: did you know that rural families in certain areas are now considered oppressed because of the lack of internet availability in their area? Before dismissing that as silly, consider all the services you access through the internet. Imagine a life without internet access in today’s wired (or is it wireless?) world. Most of us could hardly function if we were permanently offline because so much business is conducted online, not just generally through the internet, but more specifically on smartphones through the internet.
I used this space last week to write about the very real concern of our children isolating themselves by spending too much time on their smartphones. Studies show that pre-teens and teens are spending six to nine hours a day consuming media, mostly on their phones. Studies also show that those same pre-teens and teens are at higher risk for depression, anxiety, and suicide than those who do not isolate themselves with their smartphones. We know these things if for no other reason than because I’ve been harping on them for weeks now! But has anyone seen studies on why our teens are giving their smartphones so much attention and thereby isolating themselves from humanity? I know there is more than one reason, but I want to suggest that at least one reason is the creators of social media apps planned it that way from the beginning.
Smartphones were turned loose on the world in 2007. How many of us have stopped to think that the average fifth grader has never known a world without smartphones? Today’s seventh graders were only two years old in 2007, so it is doubtful they can access much memory before smartphones. These children have always had the power of the internet and everything it brings with it right at their fingertips on their parents’ phones. Now they have it right in their back pockets because the average American child receives his first smartphone at the ripe old age of 10 (Psychology Today). As you might expect, that little number comes with some baggage.
Recently I had a conversation with a Trinitas Dad who dropped in for a visit. We talked about college and testing and the different personalities of his teenage children, and somewhere along the way he commented in passing that he had never allowed his children to play video games. He wasn’t bragging or even making a point with that statement; it was just necessary information for something else he was telling me, but that was what I wanted to hear about. How had a family with a house full of teenagers avoided video games without mutiny? When our conversation took a breath, I asked him why he had never allowed his children to play video games. I’ll paraphrase his response, which consisted of three main points, and I’ll chime in with some additional information.
I loves poems. The first poem I ever taught at Trinitas started like this:
Sing, goddesss, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus
and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians,
hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls
of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feasting
of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished
since that time when first there stood in division of conflict Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus.