This post was sparked by an interesting article about teenagers and the internet by Amy Goldwasser, for Salon, which you can read here.
We’ve all been told that screens are rotting our brains. You’ve read about why I don’t think movies and television are at all brain-rotting, even the supposedly trashy TV shows. The same goes for the internet, but even more so!
Many kids and teens have limits on how long they can use the internet, or at least, their parents (like mine) think they spend too much time on the computer. They think we’re killing off brain cells, but the truth is so far from that!
And, yeah, okay, it’s possible to use the internet in brain-killing ways. You could play stupid games or watch crudely humorous Youtube videos for hours. But many of us don’t do that at all!
We read. We write. We communicate. We think. We learn. All in front of a computer screen.
Hard to believe for some of the adults in our lives, isn’t it? That some of us use proper English and research topics interesting to us (YA books, for one!) and write about things we’re passionate about (whether it be books or politics or music or just our lives) and communicate with our friends through text–surely this is better for literacy than talking on the phone being the primary means of communication!–and connect with people all over the world (a blessing for people who can’t fit in where they are physically).
My parents wrote far less than I did when they were teenagers. They didn’t have this canvas for free expression that I do,: the Internet. The internet enriches lives and minds; it doesn’t ruin them, anymore than older technologies do! I’m sure there were people who thought the printing press was an evil modern invention back in 1453 when the Gutenberg bible was first printed. Nobody thinks books are brain-rotting anymore, and computers will come to be accepted, too.
I particularly like what Amy says about the internet freeing us from having to memorize trivial facts and freeing up our brains for deeper issues, and I think it’s right on. I did know the date of the Gutenberg bible without looking it up, but I don’t know, say, the dates Napoleon was in office. But, with a few keystrokes, I could have that information. What do I know? The effects Napoleon’s time in power had on Western Europe and the Americas. I know how that connects up until today. I know that nationalism as we know it today originated with the French revolution. I know that I believe nationalism will be the end of us. I understand history, even if I don’t know the dates that my parents were forced to memorize, because I have a teacher who understands that true understanding is far more important than trivial facts I could find out in seconds! I understand, I make connections, I have opinions.
Shouldn’t that apply to life in general, not just history? Shouldn’t the big ideas be more important than the trivia, especially when the trivia is so easily accessible? Aren’t many in older generations just as resistant to this change as they are other changes–in music, in clothing, in whatever they choose to gripe about. The internet opens up an entire world that used to be inaccessible. It means I can practice my Spanish without leaving my desk chair–much cheaper than going to Spain–and connect with people who share my love of reading, and like the same books I do. The internet, if only we use it in the right way, enriches our lives, just like so many other things said to be rotting our brains.
We control ourselves and our lives. We say who we are, and if we say we are intelligent individuals and use technology to our advantage, then that advantage is huge.