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Technology Changes Society
How the Digital Age Affects Young People
The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlin: A Review
This book's title should probably have a question mark at the end, since the jury is still out on whether "social" technologies have made kids less intelligent or just profoundly different in some way. This generation is a huge human experiment to find out what happens when face-to-face human interaction is replaced by unprecedented amounts of screen time.
Although I may not agree with every contention/conclusion in Bauerlin's book, he has certainly made some astute observations. I do agree with him that many young people are almost entirely cut off from concrete reality. When was the last time you saw a young person without their cell phone? They can live their "lives" virtually in so many ways.
We can already see the problems that come from kids ingesting only their self-generated content online to the exclusion of great books written by great minds from the past. Would anyone argue that constant texting has improved anyone's vocabulary or spelling? Can your own kids interact easily with their great-aunts, grandparents, or elderly neighbors? Can they discuss actual reality rather than the Twitter feed about last night's "reality" TV? Are young men and women meeting over dinner conversation instead of just trading texts?
As an information professional, I love the access wireless networks provide to all sorts of information, past and present. While the information is available, however, most people will not seek it out if they can exist solely on social content curated by their peers. My biggest concerns for the young generation are:
- Lack of interaction among different generations,
- Lack of experience in making advance plans (just text on the fly and make it up as you go along) and
- Lack of independent thinking, e.g. why struggle through a decision when you can instantly ask twenty friends what they think?
Young people have never learned social skills on their own. Social skills come from older members of society interacting with the younger. They won't just put down their "smart" phones and ask for our input. We adults must make conscious efforts to transmit our culture to the next generation, lest there be nothing for them to pass on to their children. Mark Bauerlin has sounded the wake-up call.
Look at this matter from another angle:
Why can't anyone pay attention any more? Perhaps lack of practice.