By Jennifer Bioche
Several weeks ago, I announced to my children — ages 16, 12 and 8 — that Sundays from now on would be “technology free.” No computers, video games, cellphones or television. Predictably the protests were loud — “What! What am I going to do?” “This is so stupid!” “I’m going to be bored!” — and on and on.
Explaining to them that technology is mostly a privilege and that “unplugged” fosters creativity was futile. They hemmed. They hawed. And then, something great happened.
There was less fighting over who gets to be on Xbox, less aggravation over that page that wouldn’t download. Later, we found ourselves lounging in the living room, pouring over the entire Sunday edition of The Gazette. And before we knew it, Sunday was over, and we had survived.
I have a great love for the English language and have lamented its decline because of technology. I love progress like anyone else. But my teens think that “LOL and BRB” are real words. Disappearing from society are things such as handwritten notes and talking by phone or in person. I had suggested to my teen son that if he really needs to talk to a buddy on Sundays, he can — on the phone. He shot back, “Mom — EVERYBODY texts, now!”
Yes, and in 20 years, where will that leave us?
I contacted Rob Kuennen, assistant professor of Business Administration at Coe College, and asked if he saw a decline in student’s communication skills, with technology as the culprit. Regarding written communication, he said: “I do believe we are starting to see changes in communication behaviors that may be attributed to extended exposure to technology. These challenges include impersonality, or a general lack of the use of salutations; informality, or a fairly common practice ignoring traditional rules of capitalization, sentence structure, and editing; and inappropriateness, or a general unawareness of tone and appropriateness of topics of conversation.”
As a parent, I prefer my children learn with the basics, too — paper, pencils and lots of books. This is good for small motor control, hand-eye coordination and critical thinking skills. Touching a device’s screen and having images appear doesn’t offer this.
A tech-free day means returning to voice-to-voice and face-to-face conversation, reading text on paper or handwriting the occasional thank you note in cursive. You don’t even need to eliminate an entire day. Pull the plug on a child’s video game system. Send texts to your teen in complete sentences with good grammar and punctuation.
Don’t let technology bleed out that which is so precious to our society.
Jennifer Bioche, a freelance writer, is a volunteer teaching “Writer’s Workshop — Where Words Matter” at St. Joseph Catholic School in Marion. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org