A column about history, culture, policy, and things in between.
We have been reading and hearing about the ever growing chorus of concern about childhood obesity, both in our community and our country. Certainly it is a constant refrain in the world of education. There seems to be no disputing the sobering data, nor arguing against its conclusions. But I would like to throw something into the debate that is seldom heard: the matter of technology and the impact it is having on our kids.
I'll start with some disclosure. I own and use most of the conveniences that our amazing technology has provided to us. In particular, I am a bit of an audiophile, and use the gadgets that make listening to music easy and selective. Furthermore, technology is morally neutral and cannot be considered either good or bad. But I believe the question of how much we use it, and the place we allow it in our lives IS a moral issue. And I believe it is an issue with respect to the matter of childhood obesity.
It is certainly legitimate to talk about what our institutions can do about the "epidemic" of obesity in our young people. And we obviously need to teach and MODEL to our kids the importance of good nutrition and exercise. But I don't think it coincidence that this "epidemic" has occurred at the same time our offering of technology has exploded into the veritable smorgasbord we now see in the aisles of Besy Buy. The almost unimaginable portability of that technology is re-writing the way we live our daily lives. E-mailing, instant messaging, cell phones, PDA's, Game Boys, I-pods - all of these are marvelous in the things they can do for us. But let's be aware of some of the side effects.
Every hour a child is on a computer or a cell phone, or connected to a device the size of a match box that is pumping music into their ears, is an hour they cannot spend in physical activity, reading, or relaxed interaction with their friends or family. As they become more and more dependant upon these devices to entertain them and fill their time, they become less able and less inclined to find more healthy ways of doing so. I am concerned about the impact these things have in the lives of our youth, and on a personal level, on the lives of my kids. It is something we talk about a lot in our household.
The generation of young people we are raising will be more technically competent then I ever thought about being. But let's be sure we don't turn a blind eye to all areas of their development. Kids need downtime where they are free from "data" and "input". And they need to be free to "get out there" in Mother Nature, and to let HER soak into their consciousness, as well as the latest release from SoulJA Boy.
Come to think of it - we probably all do.