Kingston Diary - The iGen
The clocks have gone back, the nights are drawing in and I now have to leave the house five minutes earlier in the morning to de-frost my car before coming to school. The winter season is just around the corner! Given that it gets dark so early these days, there is nothing I like more at the end of the week than relaxing on my sofa with a glass of something watching a bit of television. And so it was that last Friday I found myself watching 'Have I Got News For You'. You may be surprised to learn that the answer to one of the ‘complete the headline’ questions on last Friday’s show was ‘young people spend 2.2 days a year taking selfies’. I was certainly amazed that young people spend that long just capturing images of themselves and their friends, which no doubt are tweeted or posted on Facebook or Instagram within the next five seconds. So once again it led me to reflect on the perils (or otherwise) of screen time and social media.
Psychologist Jean Twenge says that social media use means we are “on the brink of a major mental health crisis”. An exaggeration? Possibly. Nonetheless, the iGen (those born between 1995 and 2012) have grown up with IT which has completely changed every aspect of their lives. They do much less face-to-face socialising than their predecessors and the number of young people who see their friends frequently has dropped by more than 40% since 2000. According to Twenge, young people are not out having fun and becoming independent but instead on the phone in their room, alone. Should we be worried? Not according to a recent article in The Times. Perhaps, says the article, our worries about social media are more a reflection of the adult generation’s desire for nostalgia and our inability to adapt to change. There is a school of thought which says that this country is short of engineers and computer scientists; we need our young people to be technologically savvy to compete in the digital economy. In any case, for the iGen life online and ‘real’ life are inextricably linked. After all, perhaps Snapchat and Instagram for some can be as sociable as mooching around the streets with a group of friends. Food for thought, certainly.
At KGS we try our best to support our students with the technological side of life by giving them the right and appropriate information about the advantages and disadvantages of it. Mr Benson’s new role as STEAM Co-ordinator, which aims to get more students involved in engineering and computer science is – if you pardon the pun – steaming ahead and that is just one of the ways we are doing this. Dr Aric Sigman (some of you may have heard him speak before) has also been in this week talking to the Fourth Years about the importance of managing their screen time and this follows on from an insightful talk to parents by Emma Robertson, co-founder of Digital Awareness UK, before half term on digital well-being. It is so important that we support our students with all things digital whilst recognising how seemingly essential they think it is to their lives. They are the iGen, after all.