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Archives - February 2014

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Archives - February 2014

Technology and the Surreal

February 19, 2014
By John Morrison

In recent blogs we have considered the addictive nature of technology.  This week, I will touch on how our extensive use of the digital screen can tend to lead us into a world of virtual reality … that which is surreal.  Author James Houston observes, “In a surrealistic world we cannot be fully awake to reality, for we do not have an adequate standard to know what reality is.  In this age of television and films, illusion dominates the human senses … to the point that the nature of reality and the surreal becomes blurred.”  If that observation could be made in the context of television and films, think how far more relevant Houston’s statement is in this present, pervasive digital age!

In a recent interview, Dr. Sherry Turkle, a noted researcher and author, observes that an increasing number of teenagers and young adults are spending so much time caught up in their digital worlds that they are becoming increasingly inept in their face-to-face, personal relationships.  They engage in digital interactions to such a degree that they are ill-prepared for the real thing.  Behaviors are sometimes manifested in the cyber-world in which they would never dream of engaging in face-to-face interactions.

Furthermore, researchers are seeing that, for many, social networking, texting and similar forms of “relating” are often forms of escapism.  That is, digital “relationships” can be not only a shallow substitute for the real thing, but also an escape  into the surreal – an avoidance of the often challenging “real world” of relationships.

Yet, it is in the sometimes rough and tumble world of real relationships that our own personal development takes place – like a butterfly struggling to free itself from its cocoon.  In particular, adolescence is not always a fun time, but grappling with the real world of peer interactions is a vital part of growing up.  What we may be discovering is that escapism from the real world through the digital screen is resulting in extended adolescence.  Or, as one author titled his book, it is resulting in The Death of the Grown-up! 

While Turkle is quick to defend the value of technology as an aid to our productivity and communication, she is also deeply concerned that its addictive nature combined with its tendency to create an illusion of reality – that which is surreal – is emerging as a huge issue to the detriment of real-world responsibilities and relationships.  Indeed, as her book title suggests, our youth are electronically connected, but in many ways are Alone Together

I would like to encourage my readers to use the link below and take the time to hear this very enlightening interview conducted by Breakpoint’s John Stonestreet with Dr. Sherry Turkle – BP This Week: Alone Together.   It is worth your time!  Turkle not only exposes the problem, but also poses some very helpful guidelines for parents in working through these issues with their children. 

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email John Morrison at grace@gcswarriors.org.

Technology and the Christian Family: Part 3

February 04, 2014
By John Morrison

In the "Technology and the Christian Family: Part 2" (January 23), I considered the addictive nature of the digital screen.  Let me continue this particular theme. 

According to Hilarie Cash, executive director of Restart Program for Internet Addiction and Recovery, “The vast majority of the American public is mildly addicted to technology.”  Whether or not Cash’s statement is somewhat exaggerated, I must admit that when my smart phone (perhaps a contradiction in terms!) rings or pings or rattles and rolls, I find myself distracted from whatever I may be focused on (or at least trying to remain focused upon!) and stopping to check it out.  And I am an “old guy” who has been around the barn enough times to recognize that something is not exactly right about being so attached to a device that seems to take priority over other important tasks, especially my giving my full attention to the folks with whom I am meeting and interacting.  (As a matter of fact, I encourage folks to switch off their cell phones when we begin a meeting!)

But if Cash is right, and many Americans are “mildly addicted to technology,” then consider the chilling impact of her additional observation about our youth:

Internet and video game addiction starts young. Most young men are given computer or video games when they are five or six years old and therefore their childhood development is profoundly wired for these activities. It's quite different to drug addicts and alcoholics who are usually exposed to drugs or alcohol closer to the age of 15. Internet addicts usually have 15 to 20 years of addiction on them due to starting younger.

The problem isn't just young men, either. Women are getting addicted, too. Although women usually become addicted later in life and, more often than not, directly to social media, while men are more adept to becoming addicted to multiplayer games.

There are more avenues to explore based upon Cash’s words than can be developed in this short blog.  And I find parents feeling simply overwhelmed in knowing how to cope with this most troubling phenomenon.  But I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words in Colossians: See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (Col 2:8).  In the context of the digital screen, some might question my application of this particular scripture.  But consider two questions:  First, is technology taking our children captive through their becoming addicted to it?  Second, is the content with which they are engaged enhancing their Christian worldview or dragging it down?

There are not easy answers to these questions, but if parents are not fully engaged with their children in walking them through this minefield, and if parents do not have the courage to place serious limits on how their children engage with technology, then who will?  This is not a game, and much is at stake in terms of the welfare of our youth!

There is much more to be said about the nature of addiction to the digital screen.  I encourage you to read the short article from which the above quotations are taken from: "Life in the age of Internet addiction."

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email John Morrison at grace@gcswarriors.org.

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