Even life and death isn’t black or white but for many to think differently is incomprehensible. However, there are many that believe in life after death, reincarnations and a range of other spiritual and religious beliefs that adhere to this statement.
My point being that two of the most basic principles of our ‘existence’ even have an area of ‘grey’, and now apply that to education, technology, development, experiences, adventure, social media, health, well-being and engagement and it becomes an even bigger ‘grey’ area.
How are children meant to grow and develop and understand where they sit in this spectrum?
Our evolutionary pathway leads us to believe that we evolved from primates, although branched away about 7 millions years ago and as a result came from a ‘hunter-gatherer’ way of life. I say “leads to believe” because whilst I believe this to be true I appreciate that some may have other ideas or beliefs but my science background is a strong influencer to my current views.
My point being, our ‘existence’ was previously more ‘black & white’ and as time has evolved, along with our social and environmental metrics, the grey mass in between has grown larger and larger. Think of a traditional bell shaped curve and imagine the ‘bell’ getting wider as time progresses. This is as a result of many factors from business to intrinsic values, technology to wellbeing, culture to exploitation.
So, how can we help developing children understand these multiple factors and apply the necessary skills to think holistically so that, as our ancestors did millions of years ago, they can coexist within their ecosystem but sustainably?
I don’t just mean from an environmental perspective, I’m talking about: being aware of their actions in everything they do; the relationships they have at home and in the workplace; the relationship they have with strangers through building empathy and wanting to help others; the thought process to think about how they get to school and the impact that may have on their surroundings; the food they eat and how the supply chain is affected; or even understand the source of where it comes from and the knock on effect that has on the farmers and the agricultural methods, which can relate back to the technology used; the chemicals produced to deal with the pests and bugs and diseases, the science and research; and money, land & resources needed.
It’s a minefield and I don’t even know where to start sometimes...I’m not a specialist in any of these areas but by giving our future leaders the right tools and education we can encourage them to think holistically and become problem-solvers of an ever changing planet.
Delivering the right lessons, not just the typical curriculum that has been rolled out for decades, will give them the confidence, courage and ability to tackle these issues but more importantly understand the importance of these ‘wider key skills’ and how to apply them alongside the subjects they learn.
But, we need to think about the environment and approach to how these are delivered as whilst technology on one hand has been incredible for our ability to advance, teach and develop it is also causing serious issues when we look at mental health, safety, bullying, social acceptance, confidence, weight issues and isolation, to name just a few. That’s why learning outside the classroom is a very powerful environment, as it allows students to connect differently and apply their knowledge practically, which is how we’ve evolved.
There are huge benefits to computers and smartphones:
We’re able to connect with people on the other side of the world,
Let family and friends know our whereabouts,
Market to businesses and advertise to millions in an instant,
Track our health and exercise through millions of apps,
Take pictures and videos,
Stay connected whilst on the move,
Research things in an instance at the tips of our fingertips,
Read the news,
Play games and keep entertained.
Listen to music or watch a movie,
Navigate our journeys, and
Believe it or not even make a phone call.
But there are serious consequences and my fear is that developing children and even adults don’t recognise this. One article I read mentioned that they feel the most serious disadvantage of a smart phone was “putting yourself at risk that someone may rob you”. I would say that there are far more serious issues than that...
“A recent study found that kids who spent three hours or more a day on smartphones were 34% more likely to suffer at least one suicide-related outcome, than kids who used them two hours a day or less”
It can cause anxiety, depression, lack of confidence, reduction in self-belief, lack of communication skills, and one of the most interesting and upsetting is lack of innovation as we are able to constantly entertain and stimulate our minds through these platforms that we don’t have the space to get bored or think and as a result be creative.
As I mentioned, a significant moment for us was when we’ve evolved on a different pathway approximately 7 million years ago. Smartphones have been around for not even 30 years.
Like most things it’s all about moderation….
Using smartphones to help us plan things, research, connect and learn is great but so is putting them down and being present. Enjoying the surroundings, the ‘real’ connections that you can create with ’real’ human beings, the ones standing right next to you and by being social without the use of (un)social media. These are the skills that will truly help the next generation develop into future leaders and ambassadors of our planet.