And Netflix streams,
And glowing screens.
Goodnight everyone who should be asleep
Goodnight Macbook Air
Goodnight gadgets everywhere.”
We all remember reading Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown to our children as we tried to ease them to sleep at night. Those days of simply reading them a good story to get them to sleep are long gone. The above is not from that book (didn't sound familiar?!), but rather from a parody called Goodnight iPad written by Ann Droyd (a pseudonym for David Milgrim). In Goodnight iPad that same bunny cannot fall asleep due to all the electronic devices buzzing all around her.
Milgrim (the author) says, “I love my iPhone and my electronic drums and other music gear, and I love having so much recorded music available so easily. And streaming Netflix. All of it. It’s great.” But, he wanted to remind his audience that sometimes it is important to shut down all the technology to enjoy an old-fashioned book. “I fear that some of the simple and quieter things may get lost, in the same way the night sky gets lost to the lights,” Milgrim says. “Those simple activities like being with friends, reading aloud, and especially time spent outside in nature are critical to building a full life and establishing a sense of balance. The quiet beauty portrayed so poetically in Goodnight Moon is a perfect example. The modern world is just way too intense, even for the most sophisticated amongst us.”
In October 2011, the New York Times in an article called, “A Silicon Valley school that doesn't compute,” speaks of the Waldorf School of the Peninsula. There is not even one computer in the school. 75% of the parents have high-tech backgrounds and work in technology, and yet send their children to such a school. The Waldorf Schools' teaching philosophy focuses on “physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans.”A controversial and debatable topic. Yet, the message is similar- let us put the technology to “sleep” for even some time each day so that we can focus on the “human experience” of learning.
In a recent workshop, the 8th graders were abuzz about Tommy Jordan of North Carolina who discovered that his 15 year old daughter Hannah was complaining on Facebook about her parents treating her like a slave. Jordan was embarrassed by Hannah's lack of respect and took her laptop out and shot it nine times, posting it on youtube “for all those kids who thought it was cool how rebellious you were.” Whether or not you agree with what he called, “Facebook Parenting” the clear message was that he felt that she was abusing her Facebook page and her “technological rights.” Hannah was also hiding that she had a Facebook page and her father, an IT expert, discovered it on his own.
Meghan Daum from the Los Angeles Times views this story as demonstrating that we are raising a generation that “has no shame.” Her father cringed as their private relationship was made public. Hannah, on the other hand, felt no qualms about airing her dirty laundry in public. The difference between what should be kept private and what should be made public may have been intuitive before the Facebook generation. Today's children need to be expressly taught the difference. One thing this story does demonstrate, in my mind, is that this father and daughter were not comfortable communicating with each other face to face, and were doing so instead via Facebook and youtube. If only they had put the technology to sleep, (no shooting necessary), so that they could talk to each other.
We all know the glorious successes our children can and do achieve with the technology in their worlds. And, like Ann Droyd, we are not advocating going cold turkey. We are advocating breaks and another type of “Facebook parenting.” In my mind, “Facebook parenting” does not mean retaliating against your daughter via Facebook. It means, if your child is a Facebook user, you should open an account and become familiar with the system. She needs to “friend” you, and can even show you how to use it. This is the only way you can monitor what she is doing. (Although, don't dare post on her page!) If you are on Facebook this is a way for you to talk about it with her. Communication face to face, not Facebook to Facebook, is the goal.