I digress to a note about the tone of this message: I promise to be more upbeat in future messages. The school year is off to a fantastic start.
A question that keeps nudging me I would imagine is nudging all of you: What kind of world will our children enter? What will it be like for our children when they mature into adulthood?
The answer to that question starts with what is happening right now, and what is happening is right in our hands.
Dr. Jean Twenge is a psychologist and secular observer of generational behaviors and attitudes. In her newest book entitled, ““iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood,” Dr. Twenge identifies 2012 as a potentially disastrous pivot point for children born between 1995 – 2012 (graduating high school beginning in 2012 and ending in 2030).
All the empirically verifiable trends in iGen behavior can be traced back to the year when the smartphone invaded not just the market, but our very lives: “I started seeing large, abrupt shifts in teens’ behaviors and emotional states.”
Her research indicates that the average high school senior spends six hours a day with new media (texting, internet, gaming, and video chats), while the average eighth grader spends five total hours a day with new media. This means only 16% of iGen’ers read daily. iGen teens are spending less time on homework, paid work, volunteering, and extracurriculars combined. In 2015, high school seniors spent four less hours on the aforementioned activities than in 1987.
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
A recent article by the Catholic News Agency also conveys the emotional and mental consequences of obsessive screen time. Twenge is also quoted in that article, stating, “They are 51% more likely to not sleep enough. Teens who are online 5 or more hours a day are twice as likely to be unhappy as those online less than an hour a day.”
In short, we have a serious problem that impedes us from making the world more human for our children. Why do I say more human? I think the most damaging consequence of personal mobile devices is the loss of the human touch. We are losing our capacity to sustain real relationships with each other.
Now all this data may not apply as much to our school community, but it should give us pause. The world our children are entering may be full of emerging adults who are severely deficient in social and emotional intelligence. And in man’s quest to create a world that he thinks is better for himself, he forgets that God made man in his own image. God Himself is relational: three distinct persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in one nature.
I think you should all know how we approach technology here:
- Elementary students do not use individual technology devices, except for the NWEA standardized test (2 times a year; 6 hours of testing total).
- Junior high students learn how to type correctly using computers and Chromebooks.
- High school students are not allowed to have their personal mobile devices on their person during the day. They cannot access them even for academic use.
- Junior high and high school students may use Chromebooks but mainly when supervised and connected to an instructional lesson.
- High school students may use personal laptops for online courses but again, always when supervised by faculty.
Dr. Sansone and I will be addressing the causes, consequences, and developmental implications of technology use for children, teens, and emerging adults in the coming weeks. This is because we believe this is the most dangerous plague affecting the souls of our children today.
Yours Truly in Christ,
Derek Tremblay, Headmaster