Why do Silicon Valley executives raise their children technology-free? This headline from The Guardian says it all: TABLETS OUT, IMAGINATION IN: THE SCHOOLS THAT SHUN TECHNOLOGY.
They do it because they want their kids to be imaginative and mentally healthy, basically. Looking out over the wasteland of anger, narcissism, teen suicides, obesity and incivility that social media networks have caused in young lives recently, many of these tech wizards are scared for their own kids.
Like King Midas, everything they touched has turned to gold. But don’t forget the old story: When King Midas touches his own daughter, whom he loves, she turns to gold, too. That’s the end of her.
Digital Addiction begins with kids interacting with screens. The colorful, always-changing worlds they find are so much fun that when they’re suddenly without their screens and look up to see the real world around them, it simply moves too slowly. It’s boring. This causes a kind of free-floating, stimulation-seeking depression.
Down through the ages, kids engaged in creative play with toys and role-playing, attempting to do what grownups did, but in miniature. It has always been this way. But not now, not in the dopamine-laden world of video games and social networks. Not unless the kids’ lives are balanced by getting them away from these devices.
It’s ironic. Now that the digital masters of the universe are having families, too, they realize this, smart as they are. Heck, they built these things to be addictive. And yes, they love their kids, too.
So what is the indispensable skill they want their children to develop at these very expensive, very selective kindergartens and elementary schools where less is more?
What grows imagination best?
Creative outdoor play, kids playing with kids, without any adults around.
If that’s not possible, what’s the next best thing?
As Einstein said, “If you want your child to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.”
Wait a moment, you might say. Odds Bodkin is using digital media at the moment. Isn’t that a bit hypocritical?
That’s because my imagination developed long ago, when I was a kid, playing outside all day, and then, after coming back home, listening to my dad tell me stories.