Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Winter of our Disconnect

This is a really interesting book written by an Australian journalist. It follows her experiment of removing technology / multimedia from her three teenage children as well as herself for 6 months.

The process as well as the outcome is well worth the read. As is her in-depth study of the effects of technology on both children / teenagers / people today. She found the that giving up technology completely changed the way her family interacted, the way they slept, the way they “friended” and they way they played. She believes it changed their life for the better.

Each chapter charts their experiment but also discusses different areas like iPhones, boredom, homework, facebook, eating / playing / sleeping, technology withdrawal. And along with the facts, their actual experiences make for fascinating reading.

Some chapters were eye opening and shocking in a sort of a way. I’ve seen the disconnect myself (my brother is a computer obsessive and his friends all get together on a weekend with their computers, and then sit in a room together while they play online games – he’s 30). But one particular example sticks out in my mind from this book as an example of how obsessed we are with technology and how disconnected we’ve become from real life. When two young girls got stuck in a storm drain in 2009, a 12 year old and 10 year old boy who saw it happen, didn’t call for help. No instead they used their mobile phones to update their facebook status. Another individual happened to read this and called 000. How’s that for a disconnect??

A close friend of mine lets her 3.5 year old use an iPad and an iPhone. Both of which he mastered quickly and uses quite adeptly. But you can also see the disconnect. He’s more upset when they are gone, than that they have gone with his dad overseas (i.e that his dad is missing from daily life). He looks at new things to see if he can scroll them with his fingers like a iPad, and tries to press buttons rather than play. Maushart describes studies where they’ve shown early use of computers by young children can actually alter neural pathways. 

I am not an avid technophile myself and am happy with minimal technology in my life. My phone is a basic one (it rings, though it can take photos), I do have a laptop computer and an iPod but use it for audiobooks for Little B. But that would have to be about it. I prefer real life connections with friends and family. I have next to no interest in Facebook, have never looked at Twitter and have never even seen an iPhone. 

We have also chosen not to allow Little B to access or play on a computer until he is at school. He has plenty of time to adapt to technology but not so many years to enjoy free unstructured play without pressures or obsessions that computer technology can bring. It’s for this reason that he is also tv free.

I think this is a great book and recommend it as an interesting eye opener to the changes technology has made to our society.

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