In our society, children begin, at a very young age, to use electronic devices. This a matter worth researching, thinking about and discussing. A few months ago I came across a pair of media articles arguing the pros and cons children using handheld devices and decided to do some research. The findings of Joseph Chilton Pearce, child development expert and author, were the most useful. This is my understanding of what I read.
Our culture began to change significantly with the introduction of television. As the world rushed forward, parents began to rely on this passive entertainment to keep their children amused while they attended to the daily demands on their time. At first, no one thought about the effects of moving from an audio story telling culture to a form of storytelling that provided its own images, negating the need for people to form the pictures in their minds. Television evolved into computers and ever more sophisticated technology.
The danger that exists with the introduction of computers to a young mind, as Pearce points out, is the loss of imagination. He shares a quote attributed to Albert Einstein which says "If you want your children to be brilliant, tell them fairy tales. If you want them to be very brilliant, tell them even more fairy tales." Imagination is born and grows through story telling.
The words a child hears are the stimuli that call for an image making response from the brain. When that image response is provided by the stimuli, as in watching television and other electronic screens, there is no need for imagination. If the children using technology are, in general under the age of seven, this is the beginning of a developmental tragedy. Pearce states:
"Failing to develop imagery means having no imagination. This is far more serious than not being able to daydream. It means children can't "see" what the mathematical symbol or the semantic words mean; nor the chemical formulae; not the concept of civilization as we know it. They can't comprehend the subtleties of our Constitution or Bill of Rights and are seriously (and rightly) bored by abstractions of this sort. They can sense only what is immediately bombarding their physical system and are restless and ill-at-ease without such bombardment. Being sensory deprived they initiate stimulus through constant movement or intensely verbal interaction with each other, which is often mistaken for precocity but is actually a verbal hyperactivity fill in the gaps of the habituated bombardments." Evolution's End Harper San Francisco 1993, pg 167
Well that explains in part the whole alphabet of disorders showing up in classrooms over the last twenty or so years. A developmental step is missing.