Working together to help children learn and grow in a complex world
Oct. 11, 2016
Pros and cons of kids and technology
By Phil Spears, Head of School
We are blessed to live in the Digital Age. In some ways we are cursed to live in that same era. We know that our children need to learn how to use technology effectively. By the time Canterbury's current 8th graders are in college, 2 million new jobs will have been created worldwide that fall under computer-related fields, according to the latest World Economic Forum report.
It's no surprise that tech skills will be in demand. Moreover, as Devin Fidler of the Institute for the Future asserts, in the years ahead computational thinking -- the ability to manage the massive amounts of data we process individually each day, spot patterns, and make sense out of all of it -- "will be [highly] valued." But both the World Economic Forum and the Institute for the Future also indicate that it's clear that soft skills like cross cultural competency, social and emotional intelligence, and creativity also will be crucial skills in the future, both for the job-seekers and the leaders who'll hire them.
We want our children to develop these soft skills -- and many others -- and we know from experience that the best ways to do so often have little to do with technology. It happens via imaginative play, exercising intensely, engaging face-to-face in thought-provoking dialogue and respectful debate, hiking a gorgeous mountain trail, organizing a personal collection (of most anything), compromising with a sibling, and learning how to collaborate effectively with an annoying peer.
Indeed, we understandably fear and, at times, loathe technology as we watch our children grow more dependent on it. We want our kids to be healthy, happy, and successful in life, and we are afraid that technology may actually get in the way of that. Will my child be able to be enjoy intimate friendships and romantic love in the best, most meaningful ways if her primary means of connecting with others is via her cell phone and computer? Will my child make a spontaneous decision to post or send something that will ruin his reputation for years to come? Our questions -- and our fears -- abound.
Yet we also know that technology does indeed enhance our lives in many positive ways: closer connections to family and friends, particularly those far away; immediate access to (often) excellent, enriching information; shared support and community spirit for worthy causes; the ability to collaborate, create, and share documents, music, video, etc. Our children know that grown ups do enjoy and value technology, too.
Certainly our kids often see that we struggle to disconnect from it ourselves. Thus, given our own (often happy) use as well as our questions, fears, and struggles, our messaging and modeling on the topic of technology are paramount. How do we help set our kids up for healthy, happy, and successful lives? I wish I had the answer to that. (I would be very wealthy indeed!) But one thing we need to make sure we do is think about and discuss technology regularly, both its pros and its cons, with our kids and with each other.