We all know that modern technology has led to many changes. We are also familiar with what is defined as the ‘virtual reality’ of the internet. We know this since many of our friends in the internet are actually virtual friends. Reality became half real, half virtual. I believe that this technological change has a tremendous impact on the way our children interact with each other and on the manner they learn to collaborate and respect the needs of their friends. Is it possible that the exposure to virtual reality hinder the kids’ ability to be aware to the feelings, weaknesses and sensibilities of their half real, half virtual friends? I am afraid that an exaggerated exposure to the internet might influence our kids’ sensitivity and awareness to the others pains, hopes and fears. Although everything has become less real, human beings are still real persons with real hopes and expect ions. Beyond the virtual reality we are all flesh and blood with hopes, fears and weaknesses. So how can we explain this fact to our kids when they spend most of their time on the internet chatting with their virtual friends?
There are two central objectives in education. Our first objective is to prepare the pupil to fulfill a certain profession. Along the way the aim is also to nurture his ability to think in an autonomous manner. Our second objective is much more socially oriented and its goal is to allow the child to know better how to cooperate and work together with other pupils. This last goal means that the child has to be aware to the needs, wishes and ideals of the other kids from his school.
In the big cities teachers’ task has always been to nurture the kid abilities to respect his friends as persons who have their own feelings and needs, something that we all know that is hard for small kids to accept. On the one hand, it seems that in the last decades western societies have made a huge step forward and acknowledged the liberal necessity to educate our children to be more open minded and tolerant. On the other hand, it seems that modern technological advancements influenced our ability to prepare our children to know how to better cooperate with others. Apparently, the technological achievements superseded the teachers’ ability to nurture the pupils social abilities.
The smart phones have gained a tremendous impact on the kids way of spending time after coming back from school. Today pupils have an open access to a virtual world and they also spend a lot of time playing video-games and watching movies and reality shows. Do our children really know that there is a difference between the virtual and the real world? Are they exposed to the ‘real world’ enough time as we did?
Learning can be done through group or personal work. Some might prefer to study alone while others might prefer to work and consult with their friends. Hence, it is normal to allow kids to choose the way they think it is better for them to learn new materials. However, the elementary education has to prepare children to do group work. I believe that the appearance of smart phones, video-games, tablets and especially the open access to information on the web hinder kids’ ability to know how to consult and to be aware to the needs of other kids. The pupils’ work became more and more individual and less cooperative. The virtual reality on the internet does not give much space for critical reflection. They rarely meet in order to study together and they usually do their tasks by themselves. While this change might have a huge benefit for their habit studies, it lessens their social abilities and hardens teachers’ ability to nurture their social developments.
So is it good to allow our kids to be exposed to virtual realities? It seems that this is a very complicated question to answer. We know that allowing the children to develop in a manner that recognizes the other fellow pupil as a person (and not as a virtual entity) must involve a group work. On the one hand, it seems important and natural to allow children to have access to the virtual world which dominates our life today. Do we really have a choice? On the other hand, it is also important to develop the kids awareness to the feelings and thoughts of their ‘virtual’ friends.