September 23, 2014

In Defense of Technology (From a Waldorf Parent).

TV and kid

Poor technology. If Rodney Dangerfield were still alive he might say it can’t get no respect.

It’s becoming very popular and even chic to blame technology for all today’s modern woes especially when it comes to how the kids are turning out these days. (I’ve even caught myself saying, “When I was kid, my eyes weren’t glued to a cell phone!”)

Given that I send my daughter to a Waldorf school where there isn’t a TV, tablet, or computer to be found in her kindergarten classroom, many believe that I am anti-technology.

It might surprise them, but I am not.

Neither are the majority of Waldorf parents and educators I happen to know.

(In fact, many of the parents where my daughter attends school work in computer or software engineering.)

Most of us take a middle approach to it: we believe that while  too much unlimited access to smartphones, the internet, video games, etc. is not a good thing, there is a place for it.

Indeed, I happen to believe that much of it can do a lot of good depending on how and when it is used.

At the risk of dating myself, I can recall the controversy over television. It was the internet of my era. One of my friend’s parents had a book at their house urging people to throw away their televisions.

While it goes without saying that there has always been bad television, TV was for me at least my window to the world.

Growing up without a lot of money in rural North Carolina, television taught me that there was more out there than what surrounded me. It also taught me that there were other points of views.

For example, I clearly recall seeing a piece on ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings about the controversy over The National Endowment for the Arts. (It caught my attention because my then-senator, Jesse Helms was vehemently against it.) I remember just being fascinated that there were people who made their living as artists who didn’t make art that everyone agreed with or liked.

I really wanted to see this “deviant” art that had Helms and others so up-in-arms.

However, it wasn’t possible at the time.

Likewise, when I first decided I wanted write in high school and college, my options were limited. Basically, there was print media and little else. I never dreamed that one day I could reach thousands of people from all over the world thanks to an online publication like elephant journal. Plus, there is no denying that social media has made it far easier to re-connect with people from my past (and present) in ways that otherwise would have been impossible.

Of course, pointing this out is not denying their is a dark side. (As I wrote in a recent piece, there certainly is a downside especially when it comes to “trolls” and stalkers.) However, people like this have always been in our society. Perhaps the new technology helps to bring them together, but it certainly isn’t a good or logical argument to throw the baby out with the bathwater. (It can also be pointed out that social media, etc. often brings good people together.)

While I sometimes grumble that I am “chained” to my smartphone, I cannot deny that it has made my life easier in many ways. (I still marvel that such a tiny device can allow me to check my email, take a picture, and check the weather forecast for the week ahead as well as make phone calls on it.)

If I feel “chained” then that is ultimately my fault: I wasn’t forced to buy it nor is the phone is not forcing me to check it every five minutes.

It also has an “off” button… which brings me to my final point: the way we chose to use the technology available to us is ultimately entirely up to us even if we forget that at times.

My daughter may not be getting a cell phone, tablet, etc. in the near future, but my wish is she and everyone can use the technology we have in a way to make her life easier and perhaps even to learn a thing or two. Even if there was a way to “go back” to the way things were, I would not chose to. Hopefully, the lessons she learns from me, her father, and her teachers will enable her to make good decisions in general when it comes to technology and life itself.

Lastly, I hope she also has a bit of fun with it as well.  While I am truly over the selfie crazy, I have to admit that a couple of selfies or an hour lost to watching cat videos on YouTube never hurt anyone.


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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Wiki Commons 

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