City Observer Newsletter 9 May 2019 09, May 2019
The Online Generation’s Life
A leading neuroscientist has warned excessive computer screen use has dramatically altered our brains and the impact can be compared to climate change in its complexity, controversy and global scale. Oxford University Professor Baroness Susan Greenfield's contentious view is that hours of time spent in front of screens is transforming us into "volatile three-year-olds… Millennials and young children are most prone to this neurological shift and reversing the effect was "literally in our hands.” Baroness Greenfield said unlike technological advancements such as the printing press and the television, computers have created a parallel virtual world that severs human interaction. When all those developments occurred, people still ate together, they shopped face-to-face, played games, they certainly dated and they worked face-to-face…Now you can do all those activities without meeting another human being. Surely that has an impact on the kind of human being you become (SMH 3/5/19)."
Our Head of Senior School, Ms Stuart, last week wrote about the social media world and its impact on adolescents, from an article in Time Magazine. CCPS has now subscribed to the resources of Australia’s leading expert in children’s wellbeing, Prof Michael Carr-Gregg’s, online site, SchoolTV. Our Wellbeing Co-ordinator, Mrs Stephanie Evans, will be using those resources, amongst others, to help our children learn about managing the pitfalls of the online world. The online world is not possible to avoid, it is how the world communicates. I was talking with a Year 8 Science class this week, and observed to them that in 1998, a Science teaching colleague and I went to Australia’s leading Technology Expo, held at the Sydney Showground, to see the thing called ‘The Internet’, and to play with it. I remember looking up the topic of ‘pink glass’ (my wife was a collector), and about fifteen minutes later, a picture of a glass bowl located in the United States, gradually revealed itself, in all its glorious two dimensions. The children in the class were born in either 2004 or 2005, so my first Internet glimpse was six or seven years before they began to dream. It’s hard to remember the intricate emotions from 1998, but can you imagine for the first time being able to see something ‘live’ (the pink bowl wasn’t particularly lively) sitting at that time in a store from the other side of the world in the US. That was wild! Our Year 8s, and all our children all their lives have had the Internet as their friend, with their live friends on their screens twenty four hours every day of their lives. But I hear you say, parents have to take their phones so the children don’t sleep with them. Quite right…but I know that if you don’t reply immediately someone will ask you why you are mad at them. Heaven forbid an eight hour sleep delay - that could be catastrophic for a relationship or friendship. Just as it is hard to imagine emotions from the first glimpse of a live thing from the US in 1998, I think it is very difficult for my generation (grandparents), and less so my children’s generation (who are soon to be parents), to know the pressures on schoolchildren to communicate with their phones and to conform to their peers’ online whims, fads, and fashions. For example, SchoolTV topics on Social Media are listed as: “Cyberbullying”; “Sexting”; “Digital Reputation”; “Online Pornography”; “Internet Addiction”; and “Gambling”. Probably with the exception of gambling, I know that all of these topics are running rampant in our young people’s daily lives. That is their ‘natural’ world in which they live, survive and hopefully thrive. But it is a very different digital world to the one I inhabited as a fourteen year old, that was filled with face to face experiences of people. I have a Cat Stevens song on my phone, “Wild World” recorded in 1971 – it is a much wilder world now that we must help our children navigate with new devices and skills. As we let our cars drive themselves and us around, perhaps we can think about this for a solution to this scary problem.
Our thanks to our wonderful P&F for hosting the Mother’s Day Muffins Breakfast this morning at the Raelene Boyle Hall, in perfect sunshine! We wish all our mums a very special and happy Mother’s Day where your children look after you with the greatest affection and joyfulness.
Dr Dirk Wellham – Principal
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