Watching Charlie Brooker’s fascinating Black Mirror series really highlights the dangers of technology. His dystopian future vision paints a bleak picture of our relationship with technology. As a parent, it almost makes me want to throw out my iPhone, shut down my social media accounts, sell everything and go and live an outdoorsy life in a remote log cabin in New Zealand, hiding my children from the challenges that face them in the modern world.
Social media and an increased connection of virtual and our physical lives is here to stay and will continue to increase in our daily life. It is how we respond to this that will shape our children’s next chapter. I had a really interesting conversation with my Year 8 tutor group about social media after reading an article to them in The Day about Facebook, admitting that social media can have a negative effect. They had a better and more thought-out perspective than a lot of adults I’ve spoken to about the subject. One of the first suggestions made when I asked them what they think about the use of social media was ‘I think we just need to be taught how to use it and not just told not to use it by adults.’. It was a really insightful and very mature response. As a thirteen year-old in 2018 they have not known any different; technology has always been a part of their lives. There is no nostalgia drawing them to a time where mobile phones didn’t interrupt important conversations, where time seemed to move slower and there was still room to just get bored.
The older the generation, the more fear we gain and probably the stronger the feeling of yearning for the remote cabin in New Zealand. With all good teaching or parenting, we must not let our fears restrict our children’s opportunities. We need to learn more so we can help, support and teach children about the dangers and positives of social media. We must set clear boundaries about the best times to use technology and the times where you need to just switch off and metaphorically ‘run away’ to a cabin where you can create space to dream, wonder or just get bored. They still need what older generations are nostalgically fighting for: to find space to roam free, to be inspired by what is around us, to smell, touch and see the beauty of the natural world. Maybe the addiction to our devices, the pressure of needing to gain a ‘like’ or have someone comment is just too great for a child to make that decision alone.
We need to understand more and provide our children with a clear framework so that we can still help them remove themselves from these pressures. For the sake of our sanity, our relationships and our imagination we need to make sure we do not fall into the easy path of filling every hour with structured work and online stimulation as we still need to leave time to wonder aimlessly.
By Joe Earley, Head of Three-Dimensional Design