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Is technology dumbing down our kids?

9/29/2010 2:55:00 PM

Mother of three Susan Maushart has been busy promoting her forthcoming book “The Winter of Our Disconnect.” It describes her efforts to wean her family from its dependence on technology. In an Associated Press article that asks “Are we raising a generation of nincompoops?” Maushart laments the fact that her teenage daughter “literally does not know how to use a can opener.”

Technology is to blame, argues Mark Bauerlein, author of the best-selling book “The Dumbest Generation.” Because they grow up with cell phones and Google, kids don’t have to figure things out for themselves any more. The absence of technology confuses kids faced with even the simplest of mechanical tasks.

“It’s the dependence factor, the unimaginability of life without the new technology, that is making kids less entrepreneurial, less initiative-oriented, less independent,” Bauerlein says. Faced with a problem, they can just Google it or call mom and dad for step-by-step instructions. And today’s helicopter parents are more than happy to oblige, whether their kids are 12 or 22.

The absence of basic mechanical skills shows up in our kids’ inability to execute all kinds of everyday tasks. Whether it’s using a can opener, hanging up clothes, or removing the ice from an ice tray, if there isn’t a technology-based solution our kids will struggle. In her AP article, Beth Harpaz suggests we ask a 15-year-old to address and stamp an envelope; we might be shocked by the results.  

However, there is another school of thought – one which suggests that kids are just shedding knowledge that is no longer useful. After all, we no longer have to use roman numerals, take our laundry to the river, or hunt for our dinner. Surely today’s kids are right to concentrate on the skills they will need to get by in the digital age and ignore the ones that aren’t necessary?

Of course, this is not a new debate. I am sure my grandmother lamented the fact that my mother was less than outstanding in the kitchen and not very proficient with a needle and thread. The skills required to negotiate life change from generation to generation and many times a lot quicker than that. It’s easy for parents to blame technology, but that probably says more about us than our kids!

Are today’s kids lacking in basic mechanical skills? Is technology to blame? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!

Comment by TheBaron, posted 11/8/2010, 10:23 AM:

I'm sure kids would say the same about parents, yet in the opposite direction. "The absence of basic technical skills shows up in our parents’ inability to execute all kinds of everyday tasks. Whether it’s sending an email, printing a word document, or performing a simple Google search, if there isn’t a mechanical-based solution our parents will struggle."
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