I have been contemplating, practicing and researching conscious use of technology with children for more than 20 years. I have observed and read about all of the many ways that it is changing our children physically, cognitively, socially and emotionally; negative impacts ranging from brain cancer to attention and behavioral problems to impaired memory to social autism, to weight gain, to sleep problems and so much more. As devastating as all of this is, I am noticing something far more destructive; a loss of purpose and meaning. Collectively, we spend more time in front of a screen than the time we put into the exploration and loving expression of who we truly are, why we are here, and where it is that we come from. What does it mean for our children to grow up in a culture where the biggest, vastest and most ubiquitous daily presence in their life is ever-increasingly a machine? What will it mean for our children who are growing up absorbing the belief that the most powerful presence in their lives emanates from something man-made? While we might not be saying this out loud, no one needs to. Children absorb what it is that we value most. Children take their cues from us about what to orient to in life.
Are we actually going to leave the very unfolding of the human heart and spirit up to a machine? Pause for a moment and reflect deeply on this. Our children need Something Greater to connect to; whether that is God, The Great Mother, The One, All That Is, Allah, Jehovah, Jesus, Shiva, a social cause, Nature, or your family. However you experience it, and by whatever name you refer to it, our children need to be in relationship to something more than themselves and their self-indulgent forays into the cyber world. What is it doing to their spirit to have the very essence of their existence reduced down to the number of “likes” they get on Facebook? Or how many friends or followers that have accumulated. Or how many texts they send or receive each day. How does self-absorption and narcissism further humankind and inspire us to reach for our very best? It does not.
Our children require meaning and purpose for their souls to flourish as surely as their bodies require air to live. The steady and depleting diet of screen images along with the amount of time spent there reduces their spiritual life down to a tiny or non-existent corner of their lives. But certainly not the guiding force. Not the orienting direction in their life. What compounds the damage is the importance we, as their primary role models, have put on life in front of a screen; modeling for them that this is the shiniest and most coveted brass ring to reach for, despite what else we might preach about what is most important.
Meaning, purpose and a connection to Something Greater is what holds us through all of life’s ups and downs. It is what uplifts us and carries us further than we could ever go on our own. This is what will support our children when life challenges, fails and disappoints them. Experiences of Presence are often subtle, paling in comparison to the yelling and demands of the devices. Spirit is never pushy, quick, or loud in the ways of the machines. And because the satisfactions of the devices are so immediate and compelling while asking simultaneously so little, how will this prepare our children for a life lived in Connection?
Ultimately, will it turn out to be progressive of us, or in the best interest of humankind, for the dominating cultural attitude to be that man and his accomplishments are the greatest show on earth? The technologies are amplifying this ignorant and ultimately erroneous belief in far-reaching and destructive ways. What will it do to our children for them to grow up believing that they are the most powerful force in the Universe? How will arrogance, self-absorption and our own self-importance further the hopes, dreams and the very best of our species? How will disconnection from Source play out in our relationship to caring for and about others and the planet? If our children, through years of experience with being in control of all that they touch, come to believe that they are the omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient ones, how will they live? And then, how will be able to live together?
All of our greatest and most shining exemplars are those human beings who submitted to something beyond themselves. At its best, the human experience includes honoring, respecting and submitting to something more powerful than yourself. To give them the impression that we as people are in control of everything, that it is all just a click or a swipe away, is to rob them of their true place in the order of things. Watch what it is that lights you up in the presence of your children. Watch what you talk about most. Watch where you spend the majority of your time, energy and money. Do you marvel as much in the Infinite as you do the man-made?