Is it just me, or are kids getting a lot stupider in some ways — and yet more intelligent at the same time?
This nascent generation — ranging from middle schoolers to post-graduate twenty-somethings — show so much potential in their ability to master burgeoning technologies. Unfortunately for our future, the ways they’re getting dumber are far more important for their dignity and happiness.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not turning into an angry old man who’s ranting about “kids these days” — telling them to turn their rock and/or roll music or get off my lawn — rather there are some troubling tendencies that have emerged, tendencies that make me concerned for their intellectual and emotional well-being in the long run.
Most, if not all, our young people experience hours upon hours of “screen time.” That is, an extended duration of exposure to screens (television, computer, smart phone, and so forth).
Consequently, most young people excel at multitasking and interactivity — they also tend to have very strong spatial skills, especially if they’re “gamers.” What’s more, they often have remarkable visual acuity. I don’t know about yours, but my kids can easily handle a rushing torrent of images and information updated in realtime — far easier than their gray-haired ol’ dad can.
However, these skills don’t transfer well to the “non-screen” portions of their lives. Indeed, how adept one is within the world of screens has very little to do with how capable is with things that occur IRL, that is, “in real life.” I would go so far as to say their screen experiences undermine their ability and capacity for building “ready-access” knowledge or developing their verbal skills — to say nothing of developing wisdom and discernment.
I see them, I watch their interactions — with each other and their elders — and they seem so desperately averse to silence and solitude. Because they rely so much on screens keeping them connected, they can’t really rely on themselves.
Because they’re constantly restless or stimulated, they don’t know what it is to enjoy civilized leisure. The best possible punishment for an adolescent today is to make him or her spend an evening alone in his or her room without any screens, devices, or gadgets to divert him or her. It’s amazing the extent to which screens have become multidimensional diversions from what we really know about ourselves.
Further, young people today typically are too agitated and impatient to engage in concerted study. Their imaginations are impoverished when they’re visually unstimulated. As a philosopher I find this to be especially tragic. For if they can’t experience anxiety as a prelude to wonder, they can hardly become seekers or searchers of the great “whys” and “hows” of our universe.
Talk to any teacher — whether in grade school or on the university level — and I would wager they’ll tell you how much trouble their students have comprehending or being moved by the linear, sequential analysis of information. Thus, they find it virtually impossible to spend an idle afternoon with nothing more than a good book — or whiling the hours away with nothing but pen and paper.
As a result, you have children and young adults who are startlingly agile in the information they can process, while yet woefully ignorant of how insidious certainly ideas can be in the destruction of a culture.
They know little to nothing about how to live well with love and death, and many of their relational lives are so impoverished — though I doubt most of them even realize this.
Please don’t misunderstand me! Again, I’m not trying to lambaste “kids these days” or bemoan our increasingly fast-paced culture in which I — as overseer of this newspaper’s website and social media presence — actively participate.
Uh, any of you kids out there even understand that reference?