It's The Adults!
You probably hear this complaint all the time...perhaps you are one of the folks who says it! “Kids and screens...they are addicted! They are always on their phones! It’s practically an appendage to their bodies, and they can’t live without them!” Kids these days (cue the old man “get off my lawn!” voice).
Yes, kids these days. It’s true: most kids are addicted to their phones. They are in a bad way. But there’s something missing, here. Kids are that way because of the adults. We really can’t blame the kids. It’s the adults that have created the environment kids are in….the kids are just reacting to their environment and doing what humans tend to do: respond to formative stimuli. What’s more, the adults are just as bad, if not worse. How many times have I sat in a teacher faculty meeting, and while the principal is up there trying to say something, 75% of the teachers have their faces stuck in a screen? We yap at the kids about putting their phones away in class, but we can’t manage to do the same when we are in their shoes. How many times have I been out and about, and I observe a mom or dad out with their kid having fro-yo or McDonald’s, and it’s the parent who is mindlessly scrolling on the phone, ignoring the kid? Yes, we’ve all seen, while out at a restaurant, a young child in the midst of a larger family, staring zombie-like into an IPAD or smartphone screen, oblivious to the family conversation around him….but it’s the adults who are letting the kid do that. Convenience wins.
So: physician heal thyself!
The good news is that I’m starting to hear students change their tune about tech. In class conversations, they are starting to “get” and express their discontent with screen tech. They know its harmful and that our current way of life with screens is unsustainable. They commonly express a yearning for more, rather than just an acceptance of the status quo. There seems to be a growing awareness of all this. The messaging, through, ironically, viral movies like The Social Dilemma, is getting through to them.
This is anecdotal, of course, but I did hear a stat from Impact 360 that supports this: in their Gen Z lab study that they conducted in partnership with the Barna Group, 60% of teens surveyed said that their generation spends too much time on screens, and over half admit they feel bad about how much time they themselves spend on screens. That isn’t dispositive, but it is something.
So that’s a brightspot with Gen Z.
Here’s the thing though: are they willing to actually do anything about it? Are they willing to actually change their lifestyles and put some severe limits on screens in their lives? Or is it simply all talk? It is hard to know one way or the other, but I’d bet it’s mostly talk, unfortunately. Many a time I’ve seen/heard a student expressing this tech discontent, but as soon as the class is over they whip out their phones and start mindlessly scrolling away, or addict-like, they immediately rush for their earbuds, needing that muzac fix.
All the same: change starts with the adults. If our kids are going to be able to get back to, you know, human lives, we have to be the ones to take the lead, setting the example by changing our own habits, and only then having the backbone to insist our kids do the same. It has to be more than finger wagging.