Friday, November 30, 2012

Dear Abba, Part II

I had to laugh last evening when I opened my email and found another "Dear Abba" letter, this time from a parent. Without posting her original note, let me give you the substance:
My son's grades have dropped a lot this year and he's always really grouchy in the morning. I don't think he's sleeping at night. Do you think this is just a phase he is going through? Do you think he could be depressed? 
I happened to be at my desk when the email popped up, so I shot back a \ short response:
Have there been changes to his routine? 
Her reply:
We bought him his own computer that he keeps in his room. But we told him that he's not allowed to use it past 10:00 pm. 
Well, let me take a crazy guess: I doubt the kid is suffering from depression. If the first two years of high school found him well-rested and getting his homework and studying done and then, with the introduction of the computer into his room, the grades drop and he's nearly narcoleptic at the table, there seems to be an easy explanation.

Just as I would never put a flowing keg in the middle of an alcoholic's house, I would never put a computer (or a smart phone) in a student's bedroom. Why? Well, they're an enormous distraction: texting, facebook, shopping, searching and, let's be blunt, the unending supply of pornography all are but keystrokes away. Three years of teaching high school boys and listening to them talk: the computer is a never-ending source of temptation. 

Let's just take the cell phone. When we send a text, we expect a response. So if your teen shoots off a text to a friend, it stands to reason that there's an expectation for a response. Well, this can go on ad infinitum, resulting in a loss of attention at tasks at hand: how can you focus on writing a sentence when you are expecting the imminent arrival of a new message? Likewise, for instance, Facebook -- when I had a Facebook account for the Student Senate page, it was not uncommon for me to log in to check messages late at night and find many students still posting at 1:00 or 2:00 am.

At the risk of being totally old-fashioned, I'm a firm believer that young students (below Junior year, at least) do not need computers in their rooms. Heck, I'd suggest having students do their homework at the kitchen table in relative quiet and free of distractions - I'll guarantee that bereft of iTunes, iPhone, iPod, radio, Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, Tumblr, Texting, etc., that your student will get his or her homework done both faster and better. In addition, you'll actually see your kids rather than wondering - and wondering rightly - what they're doing in their rooms. 

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