As a millennial, an educator, and a mother, I am daily performing a delicate balancing act between the technology-saturated culture and the diminishing access to the natural world.
As a millennial, this feels normal. I spent the day, smartphone in hand, doing everything from email and social media to scheduling home repairs and paying bills. For me, the balance came in walking the few blocks to a local church this Sunday morning and enjoying the crunch of fall leaves under my feet. The break from the hazy norm of travel by car reminded me to stop. To be.
As a mother, I use technology to capture fleeting moments of discovery as I take photos of my son and call grandparents. At an early age my 8-month-old understood the wonder of a selfie and video calling. His balance today came in screen time with far-away relatives that was punctuated by our morning walk, watching squirrels, staring excitedly into large aquariums at the pet store, and petting a friendly puppy out with its owner.
Author and culture commentator Andy Crouch writes at length on the importance of maintaining a healthy exposure to technology. In The Tech Wise Family, he offers guidance for parents wishing to monitor or control their children’s media exposure. Crouch likens such experiences to a vaccine. By allowing children cultivated media time, they become inoculated against oversaturation as they develop the ability to self-regulate and balance technology with reality. For Crouch, the concern isn’t exclusively the loss of nature but is rather the danger of the faux reality of an increasingly virtual world. 🌎
To a slightly different end, Richard Louv diagnoses the coming generation with “nature deficient disorder”. His studies with young children reveal a startling lack of exposure to the natural world, despite increasing emphasis on the sciences. As an educator, I understand the importance of STEM education, but I am wary that tech education may be at the cost of children’s curiosity for nature. Louv’s Last Child in the Woods predicts the coming generation will have a markedly different experience with nature than even millennials (most millennials can still remember a time before cell phones, a foreign concept for our children).
A child’s early education shapes their whole being, hence the urgency of this topic. If teachers and parents do not take action to reintegrate their children’s education with nature, we are facing the possibility of a future that is so absorbed in their personal screens that they lose valuable social, investigative, and observation skills. To reduce a child’s exposure to nature to that depicted on television is to rob them of the majesty of the world that is ever-shrinking in the shadow of an LCD screen.
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