Screen Zombies

What is it with children and their attraction to screens?  Let’s perform an experiment. Children are invited into a room with a computer screen in one corner and the remainder of the room is filled with colourful candy. What do you they engage with first?

I can almost guarantee that they would first walk directly to the screen and immediately commence the zombie stare. They would likely begin to eat the candy but only after a few seconds of zombie stares. Have children developed a magnetic field that draws them unknowingly towards screens? I just don’t get it.

Today we went on a field trip to explore how Hong Kong has changed as the population has increased.  We began our adventure at a lookout point in the mountains and we observed the valley below us. We used our observation skills to describe what we saw and compared it to pictures of the same place at various points in history. It was fascinating. Afterwards, we headed to an old village in the area and talked to a man that had lived in the enclosed village for 40 years.  He shared his perspective on how things had transformed around him over the years. Our last stop was at the Heritage Museum. It had been such a perfect day, filled with wonder, connections and enthusiasm from the children.  We walked into the first exhibit of the museum and it we were greeted by colourful photographs, maps, hands on materials to use and there were even 3-D models of the area we had been investigating all morning. Two children were very excited to think that out of all the places in Hong Kong, the area we had just spent our morning was represented in the 3-D models. I shared in their excitement. Unfortunately, the excitement stopped there. The others immediately rushed over to the only screen in the room, an outdated computer with a clunky ball for a mouse. The children did not seem particularly interested in the pointless activity that was displayed on the computer, to them it was a screen and they could not avert their eyes. Their surroundings faded into the background and they all began arguing over having a turn on the computer. What made that pixilated screen so special? As I watched this happen, I was worried.

Even after ‘closing’ that area of the exhibit, the students could not switch their brains to anything else but that screen. We were all standing in a circle around the models, yet their eyes were glued on the distance screen hoping that they would catch a glimpse of movement. The wonder, connections and enthusiasm ended abruptly. It was over.

I understand that technology is a wonderful tool but when six year olds can’t function because there is a piece of technology in the room, there is a problem. A serious problem.

I don’t know how this generation is going to turn out, but I am worried.

Image result for Tsang Tai uk village

The old village

5 thoughts on “Screen Zombies

  1. I share your concern. My sixth graders are often so busy taking pictures and videos during field trips, that I have the same worry – they seem to see the world through a screen.

  2. What a sad state of affairs this is. These are the kids who have only known iPads/iPhones
    for entertainment when out and about.
    Are you working at HKIS? My husband graduated from that school (long ago). He used to live in Repulse Bay. Oh my, it has changed from his days of living there.

    • It is indeed a sad state of affairs. You should come back for a visit. I teach at the Japanese International School. It likely wasn’t there when he went to school but it is in the TaiPo area.

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