As I reflect on my childhood in the ’80s and early ’90s, I can’t help but marvel at the stark contrast between the way things were then and the fast-paced world we live in today. Back in the ’80s, life had a simplicity to it, an unhurried charm that defined an entire generation’s upbringing. We were in an era where technology was still in its infancy, and smartphones and gadgets were nothing more than futuristic dreams. Those were the days when the rhythm of life was slower, and people were more laid-back, embracing the unhurried moments that now seem like a distant memory.
In my youth, distractions were minimal. We had a limited number of television channels, and when the clock struck midnight, they concluded their broadcasts, leaving us with a quiet, undisturbed night. It was during these tranquil hours that we sought refuge in the pages of books, novels, and magazines. Reading was more than just a pastime; it was a portal to different worlds, an escape into the realms of imagination.
Family interactions played an essential role in shaping our values and communication skills. Game nights were a common occurrence, and the dinner table served as a place for meaningful conversations and shared experiences. We learned the art of communication by engaging in discussions, sharing stories, and developing close-knit relationships with our parents and siblings.
While learning disabilities did exist, the landscape of reading and education appeared far less complex. Children had the time and space to develop their language and literacy skills at their own pace, without the constant bombardment of digital stimuli.
Cultural factors also played a significant role in shaping our upbringing. In many cultures, children were encouraged to express themselves confidently, often stemming from the tradition of bedtime stories and open dialogue within families. However, cultural nuances varied, and while some cultures placed a strong emphasis on self-expression, others promoted more reserved and cautious behavior among the younger generation.
Fast forward to the present, and we find ourselves in a world vastly different from the one I remember. The digital age has ushered in a whirlwind of change, reshaping every aspect of our lives. While technology has undoubtedly brought convenience and innovation, it has also introduced a frenetic pace that often leaves us breathless.
Today’s children are growing up in an environment saturated with digital media, gaining access to smartphones and tablets at an increasingly younger age. The allure of interactive content, instant access to information, and the captivating world of social networking have redefined their priorities. The love for traditional books has been challenged by the convenience of digital entertainment and the appeal of virtual interactions.
Parents, too, face unique challenges in the digital age. The demands of modern life, with its busy schedules and limited family time, sometimes lead to children spending more unsupervised hours in front of screens. Even during family outings to restaurants, it’s not uncommon to see everyone, including parents, engrossed in their smartphones rather than engaging in face-to-face conversation.
This transformation in lifestyles, from the calm simplicity of the ’80s to today’s fast-paced digital world, is both remarkable and challenging. While the benefits of technology are undeniable, it has also raised concerns about the impact on our communication, empathy, and the way we raise our children. Parenting in the digital age presents new complexities, as parents navigate the fine balance between the conveniences of technology and the enduring values of a bygone era.
Parents today often face a difficult choice. If they restrict technology and deny their children smartphones and gadgets, their children may rebel, arguing that it doesn’t make sense to live without embracing modern technology. On the other hand, if parents allow their children to indulge in all the technologies at their disposal, new problems arise. Children become less empathetic, communication dwindles, and even when they do engage in conversation, it’s often in a language shaped by social media influences.
In my encounters with students, I’ve observed a distinctive shift in their perspective on books. When asked about their favorite book, their responses sometimes take an amusing turn. For some, the very question seems alien, as if books are an unfamiliar concept in their digital world. Regrettably, there are those who no longer recognize what constitutes a physical book. To them, books have become a distant memory, a relationship relegated to the school environment. Once the school day concludes, books often lose their practicality and relevance in their lives.
Imagine a child with learning disabilities like dyslexia or other learning difficulties, for them, books are not just a distant memory; they can feel like an adversary. Reading becomes a relentless struggle, and books transform into formidable foes, further widening the gap between them and the world of literature.
So, who do we blame for the reading challenges in the digital age? Is it the technology, the fast-paced digital era, or perhaps, do we share some responsibility as parents for becoming caught up in the rapid pace of technological advancement? It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
Dr. Julie Safri – Special Education Department EIU-Paris