This is likely to be a controversial post, and in a sense, the title is a bit of click bait. But don’t think of it as click bait. Think of it as an invitation to a conversation with which we all need to be involved. In revolutionary times such as this (and the digital revolution is truly revolutionary), we all (educators, parents, students, etc.) need to be involved in sorting out its meaning, because no one of us is smart enough to figure this out on our own.
An article in the New York Times recently caught my attention. Here is the link to the full article:
A quick summary of the article yields the following points:
- The iPhone is “addictive” and the “Internet is broken.”
- It is up to tech companies to review their products and act more responsibly toward society as a whole.
- Investors have sought help from Apple in limiting exposure of their products to children.
- Technology is responsible for making us more divided than ever before and they have an obligation to help fix this.
There’s more, but you get the idea. The main thrust of the article is that tech got us into all sorts of problems and that it is their responsibility to get us out.
I believe that this prevailing attitude is wrong. This is not to say that technology companies are innocent of intentionally manipulating the public for profits, or that there is nothing that these companies can do to improve their products in a civil manner. These things may be true. But. to advocate for these steps from tech companies first and foremost is to ignore the personal responsibility we all hold to use technology mindfully and to assist those around us in doing the same. It’s as if we are saying, “We don’t want to go through the trouble of addressing our own technology patterns, so we are just going to complain about companies and have them responsible for fixing us.”
That is wrong. So much talk goes to blaming the corporate boogeyman and so little effort is given to examining our own technology use, doing the research, using our own technology thoughtfully, and expecting the same from our children and students, assisting them along the way.
It is easier to blame some tech entity than taking responsibility ourselves. It is easier to complain about the state of our society than to make the tough decisions needed to use digital tools more appropriately. And it is easier to just give our kids everything they want rather than to deal with their complaints and whining about not having it all.
Are we so powerless that we cannot harness technologies power in a productive manner? If so, then by all means go after the tech companies. But I would suggest that we are far better off rolling up our sleeves and getting down to the challenging, gritty work of taking responsibility for our own tech use and empowering others to do the same rather than complaining about digital technology and culture.
How might this look? What if…….?:
- Teachers and parents model the type of technology use we want from our children. I am not sure many of us do.
- All of us weaned ourselves off of screens at least one hour before bedtime, increasing the chances for productive sleep.
- Parents turned off the home router and removed all devices (including theirs) form the owners at a set time each night.
- Students had the power to address mis-use of technology based on family or school rules of the adults in their lives.
- We talked regularly about what is happening with screens in our society, digging into research together, and basing our shared decision-making on these conversations.
- We emphasized the difference between using technology and having technology use us.
- We established specific times to get away from technology entirely, using the time to read, play games, explore the outdoors, etc.
- For those of us who teach in Christian schools, what if we regularly reviewed technology, social media use, etc. in light of the law God established for our own good, namely, the Ten Commandments. We also may consistently reflect upon our penchant for idolatry and how our devices sometimes become those idols. When guilt is identified, we can also rest in God’s love and forgiveness and relish in the fresh start He provides for us.
This is certainly not a comprehensive list, but you get the idea. Are we willing to get our hands dirty and embrace the challenge of using technology mindfully? Or would we rather complain about the companies from which we buy these tools?
Let’s actively use the tools we have available and not allow them to use us. If we do that, it won’t matter what a tech corporation does or does not do.
What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Think I am missing something? Then join the conversation, either as a comment to this post or elsewhere. We all need to engage in this discussion for the good of ourselves, our schools, and our students and their families.