Heretical Thoughts.

Via Doug Belshaw and I read this fascinating article about British youth. It does not make for cheery reading. There's one aspect I'd like to pick up on:
On the whole, British children were more disconnected from their families, with nearly half of 15-year-old boys spending most nights out with friends, compared to just 17 percent of their French counterparts.

Our kids are also spending more and more time on computers talking to each other rather than with their parents. In the light of this statistic, would it be heretical of me to suggest that this is not such a great thing? I know that Bebo sometimes looks to me like a virtual Lord of the Flies.

As a society we lose the plot when we lose sight of the simplicity of our needs. In order to flourish, children need a secure, loving home environment and the time and attention of adults that care about them. These needs may not be sufficient, but they are certainly necessary. Web 2.0 does not provide anything that children need.

A child born today could reach the age of 18 without ever touching a computer or seeing a TV, and go on to lead a happy, successful life. Kids need the time and involvement of their parents, not the technological artifacts we have bought whilst working longer and longer hours away from them.

If children are already getting what they need, then these virtual adventures are great, but it appears that many of them are not. And in that case time spent online is just so much more lost opportunity to engage in the nurturing face to face interaction with adults that they so desperately need.


  1. Well put Robert - the most important thing is how the child develops as part of a loving family unit - if this is lacking, then spending time doing other things isn't going to fill that void.

  2. Yes Robert,
    compared to a secure and loving home, school with all ict bells and whistles is just gravy.

    I remember reading somewhere a long time ago that the difference between the best and worst teaching would only have a small effect on a child's reading ability. I imagine everything else is the same. How we get this simple need answered in society, is not so simple though.

  3. I agree. I think we completely underestimate the impact family life -or what passes for that with many kids- has on development and education. A teacher told me recently that, if we were to estimate the time we have with pupils to a percentage of a year - they would be done with us on Valentine's day (Feb 14).

    Children who have those secure backgrounds and relationships transfer that confidence into their education. They really can start something new at any stage, and they learn at an incredible rate.

    I do think however that Web 2.0 is meeting a need - the need for community. It can offer a lot but it cannot, no matter how sophisticated it becomes, replace the frontline relationships children, and all of us need.

    That's not heresy, it's truth.

  4. Well exactly guys. I don't claim to have an answer. I guess I'm wearing two hats - teacher and parent. As a parent I definitely restrict the amount of time my son spends on "screen time". Might parents be encouraged to allow their kids to spend more time on computers if they hear teachers waxing lyrical about the benefits of social software? That's my vague concern. Actions have consequences. Have we really thought through all the consequences of our espousal of social software in education?


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