Kids Need Meaningful Relationships More than Mobile Phones

No matter how advanced technology becomes, nothing will stop us from needing human contact and real interaction. You might be able to stockpile Facebook friends, but nothing can replace the loyalty and support offered by a real friend.

Sometimes I feel that we have allowed ourselves to live in glass cubicles, shielded from real people, real conversations and real experiences. The same technology which was devised to bring us closer together has been misused and ultimately, has kept people out.

Teachers have been instructed to keep emotional distance from their students, the local small business operator who cared about his/her community as much as their bank balance, has been replaced by people not interested in the place where they work or the people who frequent their establishment. People are much less likely to say things like, “I just met someone on the train. We got talking and she told me all about her interesting life.” The only talking on trains is via mobile phone.

Is this really a natural way to live? Is this how we want our children to grow up? Are we really surprised to read that children don’t play with other children like they used to?

A new study that found almost 50 per cent of kids don’t play every day has prompted an expert’s warning about a generation of depressed and anxious youngsters.

The study, hailed as the first of its kind in Australia, carried out a total of 1397 interviews, including 344 with children aged between eight to 12.

About 40 per cent of them said they don’t have anyone to play with while 55 per cent say they’d like to spend more time playing with their parents.

Forty-five per cent said they were not playing every day.

The MILO State of Play study, which also interviewed 733 parents and 330 grandparents, found that more than 94 per cent of them believed play was essential for child development.

But it is still rapidly falling off the list of priorities, said child psychologist Paula Barrett.

“The longer we de-prioritise it, the more likely we are to have unhappy and inactive Australian kids which are more likely to be anxious and depressed, resulting in a raft of social problems in adulthood,” she said.

Dr Barrett said unstructured, active play was essential to help children learn important life skills, develop imagination and creativity.

“This finding highlights a concerning yet common misperception that many parents share – they dont think that kids need to play regularly after the age of eight,” she said.

Many will criticise me for drawing a parallel with the state of society and the development of new technologies. Of course technology isn’t solely to blame for a lack of real and personal interactions. But let’s face it, they have made the issue more serious. Just look at the advertisement above. Do we really want life’s pleasures to be about how nifty our touch screens can become?

In 2005 a landmark movie was released entitled, Crash. It depicted New York as a place where people are too insecure and selfish to interact with others. The only way a person can have any dialogue with a stranger is if they, quite literally, crash into each other.

Our children need real friends, not Facebook friends, they need play dates not peer-to-peer gaming sessions and they need the adults in their lives (including teachers) to scrap any notions of emotional distance and become engaged.

Let’s tear down the barriers and bypass the touch screens and actually … talk with each another!

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3 Responses to “Kids Need Meaningful Relationships More than Mobile Phones”

  1. John Tapscott Says:

    This is a topic that is dear to my heart. Of course children need to play! The world looks on play as futility – non-essential, and yet spends millions on football and cricket and many other sports. As a child I would play cricket with my friends in a cow pasture using an old tennis ball, and homemade bat and stumps. We would slide down steep hills in another cow pasture on a sheet of hardboard (masonite). If anyone ploughed through a fresh cowpat he/she was said to have “hit the jackpot”. We once made a raft by tying driftwood together with vines, which we used to take us to an island in the lake, which was covered in rain forest. This was more than play. It was also learning – experiential learning – even if some of it took place when we had wagged school.

    Sadly this generation bows to the philosophy of utilitarianism. The currency of this philosophy is ultimately money – if it does not lead to the creation of wealth it is not worth doing. Hence, success at football leads to wealth so sport is valued not for the sheer joy of playing but for the financial rewards thereby gained. The emphasis is on winning at all costs – small wonder that the world of sport is also a world of cheating. And cheating is only frowned upon when the cheat gets caught. Utilitarianism.

    Furthermore ideas of schooling are getting further away from the world of children and are increasingly the ideas of utilitarianism.

    As a society we have lost our sense of direction. We no longer have a compass to direct us to the true north, which may be a way fraught with obstacles and dangers necessary to develop our character. All too often we take the line of least resistance.

    When utilitarianism runs rampant in the schools the air is sucked out of the system, our teachers are sidelined as mere technicians and our children suffocate under burgeoning burdens of bureaucratic bumfluff. It all comes under the guise of medicine – nasty tasting medicine – to do you good.

    Over my 40 odd years of teaching I have noticed this trend in schools:

    Kindergarten/Prep – children keen and eager to learn.
    Grades 1-2 – some children becoming harder to manage.
    Grades 4-5 – some children definitely disengaged.
    Grades 6-7 – more children disengaged.
    High School – what’s the point?

    I can think of several reasons why this is to be and it has nothing to do with the idea that in “real life” there are winners and losers. If anyone can show me how the modern education system in any way resembles the “real world”, I’ll nominate them for the Nobel Prize (in sophistry, as if.)

    Several years ago I was on the staff of a school camp on the Murrumbidgee River. Our school principal came to visit one late afternoon. Most adults were preparing the evening meal, while some kept an eye on the children. The kids were running around, as kids do, making sand castles, playing various games and it all appeared somewhat chaotic. A sweet little 9 year old girl noticed a somewhat perplexed look on the principal’s face and said, “It’s OK Mr M. We’re just being kids.”

    “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings….”

  2. makethea Says:

    Reblogged this on makethea.

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