Technology - boon or bane to people?
LAST Saturday my wife and I went out to dinner with a group of friends.
This is our traditional end-of-year dinner where we get together to catch up on a variety of issues including parenthood, careers and generally "touch base".
At some point our conversation - by then oiled by dollops of dated Scottish alcohol - diverted to how we can get our offsprings more involved in such qualitative bonding sessions.
The suggestion was then that we should organise group holidays where our children can interact with each other like we do.
The first complication about such a venture is the age difference among our broods. As a group, we have children with ages ranging from 10 to 22 years. Anyone with a semblance of parental experience can testify to how teenagers look down on their toddler siblings. They, in most cases, regard them as a nuisance.
The toddlers, on the other hand, tend to hang onto their teenage siblings' coat tails. Imagine then throwing some non-relatives into the whole powder keg. The situation becomes even more complicated when it comes to the over 21-year-olds.
Generally, at those ages, individuals have developed their own personalities. They also tend to choose friends according to how they fit into that personality mould. Trying to force children who do not fit each other's personality mould simply in the name of parental friendship can turn out quiet disastrous.
As we mulled over this conundrum, one of our friends threw the spanner into the works. He pointed out that very little bonding would most probably take place during such group ventures because our children have become techzoids - they spend much time on their I-phones and BlackBerrys tweeting away in silence. He pointed out how our kids spend time on their phones even when in each other's company.
"They have gone to the ridiculous stage of sending BBMs and tweets to each other while in the same room. Unlike us, they do not play with each other, and this is what will happen if we go on a group holiday," he exclaimed.
By saying this, our friend went to the nexus of what technology has done to human relations today. Most of us agree that technology is indeed a boon to mankind.
Through technology our children have become more knowledgeable. Today, inventions like I-Pads are being used in virtual classrooms to teach children. These inventions have the advantage of bringing the world out to our children's fingertips.
But the downside to all this is how technology has come to replace human relationships. Any behavioural scientist or psychologist worth his or her salt will vouch for the importance of human relations in human development.
One of our key tasks as parents is to contribute towards our children's development. We do this through role modelling and social interaction with our children.
It is through this interaction that we transmit knowledge to our offspring. But not only do we want to transmit knowledge but we are also supposed to become our children's mentors.
Through social interaction and communication we seek to encourage our children to develop critical thinking skills and apply them to life.
As parents, we are also expected to develop a moral compass for our children.
The reality is that computers, I-Pads and BlackBerrys can be helpful tools for our children's education as well as communication tools. But unlike parents, they cannot teach children to question and challenge them as sources of information.
They can hardly teach our children to think about the consequences of their actions. What they do is to make information available without contextualising the meaning of situations created by accessing such information.
These are some of the invaluable life skills that parents can, and technology cannot, pass onto their offspring.
Simply put, it takes a person, not a machine, to teach wisdom, socialisation and morals. This is what we as parents and our children need to bear in mind as we chart our way through today's technological maze.
My proposal to our friends was that we should have a group holiday where no one brings any technological gadget. The whole weekend should be spent playing games and telling stories like those before us used to.
I once tried it with my wife, my daughter and her friend. We spent a weekend at a resort in Free State. The chalet we stayed in was without a radio or television ... with only our books and ourselves. We dedicated our time to sightseeing, reading and telling stories.
That - as far as I'm concerned - is the kind of bonding that no technological invention can ever achieve.