Google+ Authentic Parenting: The Internet is Destroying Our Children. Or Making Them Stronger. Who Knows!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Internet is Destroying Our Children. Or Making Them Stronger. Who Knows!

Using social media is making our children depressed. Online games help our children to multi-task at speed. Video games are reducing our children's ability to focus for any period of time. Social media is allowing more shy children to express themselves. Children who spend too much time on electronic games show higher incidences of obesity. The Internet is a fabulous learning resource for children. The Internet warps our children's minds.


Each of these is a finding from a different recent report on children's interaction with our rapidly evolving technology landscape. It's a confusing mix of messages designed more, in my view, to grab attention than to create a constructive way forward for children and technology.

Headlines aren't usually made by balanced comments. And too many commentators are leaping onto opposing bandwagons that try to paint online games, social media or the Internet as either the evil spawn of Beelzebub or the road to salvation.

The reality is, like most other things, it's not that simple. Our children need to be very comfortable with technology developments - their world will be unimaginably different to ours in terms of what they will interact with technically. But developing their technical prowess shouldn't mean sacrificing social skills, or intimacy with nature, or fitness and health or manual and creative abilities.

So the trick is to find balance. And often, that's not even to balance time spent on a computer with time out climbing a tree. Increasingly the balance is in not seeing the physical and the online worlds as two entirely separate ones that never meet, but rather finding ways to bring the two together. And that's not to forget the other world that children (and adults for that matter) should inhabit and excel in - the creative and imaginary one.

That is the underlying philosophy behind what we're doing at Freaky Rivet. We are creating an environment to get children moving, creating and exploring, and we're using technology as a part of that mix.

Today, that means the publication of activities that are mostly in the physical or natural world. Here’s an old favourite by way of example. As a child, I remember going armed with a list to our nearby woods to hunt down and bring back different types of twig or leaf or flower. Well, today, scavenger (as many of you will remember it being called) can be brought into the 21st century and enhanced.

Why just bring back the twig when you can take the whole tree? And what if you also had to find and bring back a certain type of cloud? Or a smile? Or the sound of a cricket? Try fitting any of those in your pocket or a plastic bag as we had in yesteryear. But play ‘Digital Capture’ and the limitations have just been blown away. Armed with a smartphone (or a cheap digital camera), send the kids out on a game to see who can first bring back pictures or recordings of whatever is in their environment. Here’s a video of when we asked ours to go play.

We are imminently developing the site into an online club where kids will reward each other for physical, natural or creative activities that they do or that they make up. That way, we aim to create a global community of kids who are encouraging each other to interact with the physical and natural. And we’re delighted to be partnering with Authentic Parenting on this journey to get our kids all moving, creating and exploring again. To find out more, click here or on the Freaky Rivet badge to the right.

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Freaky Rivet was founded by Iyas, the author of this article and father of four, and Kevin, an ex-teacher of over a thousand children and who also runs activity days for schools. Iyas used to lead a business and technology consulting organisation of nearly 500 people, which he left for the bigger challenge of herding his four children with his wife around Latin America for 6 months. During this life-changing trip to recover from the corporate world, he discovered both the subtly addictive nature of gadgets and technology for children, and their ability to enjoy exploration, discovery and activity when peeled away from the technology. It was this eureka moment that led him with Kevin, an old friend from their time together at Oxford University, to come up with the Freaky Rivet concept - inviting children into a life of activity, of exploration and of discovery by using technology rather than fighting it. In his spare time (kidding, right?) he runs a charity for children living in disadvantaged and war-torn environments.

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Image source: San José Library


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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this info about Freaky Rivet! I'm heading over to the site now to learn more.

    It really is so hard to know if the internet is harmful or helpful. So far, my kids haven't been exposed to it, but they are still little (3 and 1). I think the future for them using the internet will be all about lots of moderation.

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