Cut The Cord

Okay, not literally. I’m talking about the cord to our kids’ electronic devices…phones, iPads, tablets, etc. I don’t actually want to cut the cord completely. I love my phone and couldn’t live without it. I know my kids feel the same about their devices. Plus, the cord isn’t what actually makes it work, but you know what I mean! We need to pull away and realize the harm that they are doing to our kids. It might seem like it’s easiest to just let them play. It’s quiet, peaceful and you can get things done. I get it! I promise it’s having its impact though.

As a kindergarten teacher, I know my mom-view on use of electronics or technology has been greatly impacted by what I see in the classroom. It’s changed as I’ve seen kids come through that have had iPads or tablets in their homes since birth. People say that kids are kids and they haven’t changed, but they’re wrong. I’ve watched it happen before my very eyes and it has greatly changed the job description of a teacher. Don’t get me wrong, my kids have their fair share of screen time. On the weekends, it’s more than during the week. At Grandma’s house, it’s more (not my jurisdiction…I’m just thankful for the help!). I don’t hate technology and I know that my kids need exposure because most likely these skills will be necessary in their lives. However, screen time is something that I am fighting hard to control at home. I’ve even tightened the reins more in the past couple of months as we get to the toughest part of the school year. In the classroom, we are STRUGGLING, people. We are drowning in the results of too much time spent on electronic devices and not enough time spent socializing, learning to play, strengthening character traits…or really just kids figuring out who they are!

They come to kindergarten without really even an identity. They don’t know what they enjoy or what they dislike. The only thing they can tell us that they like to do is play video games, play on their tablet, watch TV, or something similar. These options aren’t available at school when it’s recess or play time and they don’t know what to do. They almost don’t really even know how to play with toys anymore. Often times, I see kids resorting to acting out video games when it’s play time because that’s all they know. They need somebody to teach them how to play because they’re about five years behind where some of the more well-rounded students are. Sadly, our play time during the school day has dwindled to almost nothing (this is NOT a teacher’s choice, so please don’t blame us!), so there’s not time to make up for that five year deficit.

That means that not only is the little bit of play time during the day a struggle, but their learning is majorly impacted. They are used to only paying attention to something that is continuously flashing, moving and grabbing their attention. They aren’t even used to commercials anymore, so they don’t know how to sit through and watch something they consider “boring”. When it comes time for learning, teachers make it as interesting as we can. Though even that can be difficult depending on the instructional techniques that may be mandated by their district. No matter what though, we can’t compete with the graphics and fast-pace of the video games. This is real-life, not a digital world. The kids don’t know how to learn. They don’t know how to wait for something because their electronics are brought out the second they don’t have something to do. They don’t know how to make themselves pay attention to something that isn’t immediately interesting to them. They don’t know how to keep their thoughts to themselves because they’re so used to people narrating their video game playing, thanks to YouTube. I’m positive they narrate while they play video games themselves. We struggle to even watch a PBS Kids show in the classroom without kids trying to narrate what’s happening or letting every thought pop right out of their mouths. On top of that, curriculum and more rigorous standards are being piled and piled and piled on our plates. There’s more and more each year. We. Are. Drowning.

So fix it, right?? I know that’s what you’re thinking. “Well, it’s your job now to teach them not to do all of those things, You’re the teacher!” Here’s the problem: we take five steps forward during the week and then they take two steps back on the weekend. Christmas break?? Fourteen steps backward. Summer break? Ninety steps backward. We can never get ahead. Every day that we spend re-training their little brains and habits is one step forward. Every day that parents let their kids play endless amount of video games, tablet time, watching YouTube…that’s a step backward. They’re out of school more days than they’re in school. We need help and support of parents.

I have many parents who think their child is just fine in the classroom and their teacher has no idea their kids spends so much time on Xbox, Minecraft, YouTube, etc. They’re wrong. I can tell in their social skills, their processing speed, their vocabulary, their fine motor skills, their gross motor skills…we know. Nobody’s kid is immune to this. Not yours, not mine! Electronics aren’t a bad thing. There is actually a lot of learning that can be done with them. However, my kids have to give me a plan before they can hop on. They need to tell me what they’re planning on doing and how long they think it will take. We set a timer for that long (if I’ve agreed that it’s an appropriate amount and an acceptable task!) and they do what they planned. Then when the timer goes off, they know they need to go do something else. But endless amounts of time? It’s not happening here. I love my kids too much for that!

I’ve watched amazing teachers walk away because it’s more than they can do. They go to a different school or district, hopeful that it will be different. Or they retire as early as possible because they feel like they can’t fight the battle anymore. We’re talking master, phenomenal teachers. A huge loss to the field of education. We just aren’t equipped to deal with kids coming in the masses without social skills. We don’t even have the time to do it, even if we had the training or resources because the curriculum is more rigorous than ever! I see education changing right in front of my eyes. The teachers that care enough to do a good job are struggling because they know they’re not getting the job done. The ones that don’t care whether they’re doing a good job will stay. So what does that do for our kids? Leaves them with huge social problems, harder things to learn than ever expected before AND teachers that are only there for a paycheck. I’m scared, you guys. Something has got to change. I’m begging you. Unplug your kids’ devices, at least a little.