YOUNG MINDS VS A TECH- OBSESSED WORLD

It’s no overstatement to say that technology has altered humanity. Think of something as simple as where you read the news from; whereas previously we’d have to walk down to the shop to purchase a newspaper, today it’s all available as the touch of a button. Surely all this abundance of knowledge and information means that we’re all a bunch of geniuses, right?

Looking at local statistics in relation to local schooling makes for somewhat of a sobering read. Malta has the second-highest number of early school leavers in the EU, meaning that one in six students on the island will quit school in their teen years. Also, only 44.6% – less than half – of all students who sat for their O-Level exams in 2019 gained the marks necessary for them to enter sixth-form.

You’d be forgiven for looking at these kind of statistics and wondering ‘what on Earth is happening here?’ So much time, effort, and research has been put in to improve education standards in our schools, and children today have opportunities available to them that their parents could only have dreamt of. MATSEC have just recently drastically reformed their sixth-form education curriculum, hoping to improve the situation. So, why does it seem that a greater number of our kids aren’t thriving academically?

It turns out that, as a population, people are indeed becoming less intelligent. Previously, we’d all been basking in the glory of something called the Flynn effect, which meant that every decade, the average IQ score of the population went up by three points. Recently, it seems that this trend has been reversing. The culprit? Technology, and the Internet (according to science, anyway).

I’d be a massive hypocrite if I said that I – like almost everyone this day and age – did not use the Internet / modern forms of technology on a daily basis. Most folks today use their phones for just about anything, and you’d be hard-pressed to find jobs which used don’t reply on computers to some degree, if not entirely. And just like genetics, mannerisms, and which football team to support, we’re passing this down onto the next generation.

A whopping number of toys are now electronic; kiddie versions of smartphones, laptops, and tablets are popular gift choices for kids. We live in a world that’s become so e-based, starting ‘em young seems like the most logical thing in the world.

The bad news? Evidence shows that too much exposure to technology can actually be a bad thing for our little ones. Whereas toddlers would previously have been stacking up blocks or making their first random scribbles onto a sketchbook (or dining table, as my daughter nicely displayed), today they’re on their parents’ phones playing some animated game. This can slow down their learning of motor development skills, as well as delay their learning of social interaction skills. And whilst I’m sure the average moody teen would love nothing more than to avoid engaging socially with their parents, interaction skills are actually crucial for the development of healthy relationships and social engagements later in life.

I (like most parents these days) totally understand the temptation of wanting to keep a child occupied in front of the TV for a while, simply so that I can get some things done. And, really, isn’t childhood meant to be the period of our lives when we’re totally carefree and just having fun? However, it seems that the abundance of all that might not be such a great thing after all.

The good news is that, whilst it is impossible to completely eliminate technology unless you’re willing to move to Comino (which doesn’t sound like too bad of an idea to me, personally), there is something to do about all this. Nestled very deeply in the corner of most bedrooms, coated in an inch or so of dust, lie books just begging to be read by you, the heartless owner who hath abandoned them. They also make great gifts, and we’re practically spoilt for choice when it comes to children’s books. And as they make for a great alternative to just sitting about and staring at the TV, and actually require a fair amount of brain-power, what reason is there to not want your kids to be bookworms? If you’re going to spoil them in one department, this is it!

Seriously now; parents, do not give up. The fight to pry kids away from technology is not an easy one, but with perseverance and by making reading seem fun (which it is!), we can start making the baby steps we need to win the battle. We’re not doing our kids any favours by making things so easy for them that they forget how to think, and, at the end of the day, a love for books and reading can only benefit them.

Every child has potential – don’t let them waste it.



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