Teachers say children in America are losing motivation and creativity due to excessive internet usage and over assistance from parents.
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Childhood is defined by creativity and passion, but American youngsters appear to be losing these abilities, according to instructors.
Children in the United States are less imaginative and driven than previous generations. According to Page Park, an Indiana teacher with 24 years of experience, there is an obvious contrast between today’s youngsters and their peers from only a few years ago.
“They don’t know how to think for themselves, too. I do have a few kids that are really good at problem-solving, but not as many. They’re not good at problem-solving,” she added.
Park claims that their creativity has dwindled since she began teaching. Even simple problems are not solved by today’s students.
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For example, if a student realised he didn’t have a pencil, he wouldn’t ask for one, according to Park.
“I’ve taught most of my career,” Park said. “I’m talking high school students who just don’t think to ask, ‘Hey, can I borrow a pencil?’ And I have them available where they can just take them.”
When Park looks around her classroom, she sees a generation that’s disconected from the rest of the world.
“They talk about games a lot. They never talk about going outside. They talk about staying up late. Their sleep rhythms are awful,” says Park.
“I have one that was telling me last week or the week before that he doesn’t go to bed until three o’clock in the morning. They might be a little more rigid in movement.”
Other instructors in many states have noticed a similar trend.
Theresa, a New York-based teacher and contributor to The Developing Mom, similarly believes her kids are lacking in creativity and enthusiasm.
“I thought, all I have to do is just show up every day and do my very best, and I can inspire these kids. I can change your life. Every teacher thinks that,” she stated “. “But what I started to see was the students, they were not inspired, no matter what I or my fellow teachers did.”
Theresa had the same issue in each of the three schools where she worked.
Theresa, a Nigerian immigrant, believes the youngsters she grew up with were considerably more creative and motivated than the students she now instructs. When confronted, American youngsters, in her opinion, give up.
“Why is it that these kids show up and they are completely disinterested in education? It baffled me,” she said.
About half of the pupils at Theresa’s present school are homeless, but they don’t have the same desire to escape poverty as Nigerian children, she claims.
Theresa understands the difficulties of poverty. She and her brothers had only one daily meal as youngsters in Nigeria, but they and other children were anxious to gain an education and succeed.
Theresa added, “To see people waste their opportunity makes me want to cry,”. “Any child in Nigeria would give an arm and a leg to come to this place. And you guys have everything, and you throw it away.”
Jessica Bonner, an elementary school speech pathologist in Birmingham, Alabama, also sees a difference between today’s children and children in the past. She claims they don’t usually discuss their shared interests. Instead, they appear to be preoccupied with watching other people’s online videos.
“The thing that changed was the cellphones. Smartphones, though, were the thing that started to change. So now students are looking at and relying on the devices more,” Bonner added.
She recently asked a group of students in one of her classes to come up with an educational topic for a music video they were going to make. Instead of debating or making a decision, they stared at her blankly before starting a conversation about unrelated topics.
Bonner says, “I honestly believe that elementary school students are so accustomed to having to follow a set curriculum throughout the day with little to no input from them that they unconsciously shelve their ideas.”
Creativity and the desire to succeed appear to be inextricably linked in the stories these teachers tell. Creativity is the result of a strong desire for a specific outcome. Children who are apathetic do not create.
Trading Dreams for Screens
Experts have a few theories as to why American kids aren’t as creative as their European counterparts. However, the first and most widely accepted theory is that a child’s ability to think and self-motivate is harmed by constant online activity.
Teachers who spoke with The Epoch Times agreed that spending too much time online is a contributing factor, and statistics back them up.
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, something changed in the mental health of teenagers in 2010.
Only a few years between 1999 and 2010 saw teen self-harm rates of more than 300 injuries per 100,000 people or suicide rates of more than 10 per 100,000 people. However, since 2010, suicide and self-harm rates among young people aged 18 to 24 have never fallen below these levels and have generally risen.
One of the most significant developments in society during this time period, according to Pew Research Center, was the surge of smartphone ownership.
According to other studies, young people spend a significant amount of time online.
While correlation does not always imply causation, teachers and psychologists have shown that excessive internet usage and mental health issues are often linked.
Dr. Leonard Sax, a psychologist, claims that American children spend far more time online than children in other countries.
“In this country, for example, it’s very common for kids to go to bed with their phones, or for boys to have video game consoles in their bedrooms,” Sax says. “It’s actually unusual in continental Europe.”
Child mental illness has risen dramatically since children began to live online, according to Sax. Excessive online time appears to be linked to disengagement, lack of motivation, and a slew of other symptoms.
“Over the last three years, American kids have gone off the deep end and are now many, many times more likely to be anxious, depressed, disengaged, unmotivated, and not paying attention compared to kids in Europe, Australia, or New Zealand,” he said.
Growing Up Smart
Teachers claim that today’s children spend their entire lives glued to their smartphones.
Even today’s children’s friendships differ from those of a decade ago, according to Park. They revolve around what occurs on the internet. For them, the internet appears to be ‘the real world.’
“It’s all about what he or she did on TikTok,” Park said.
Because of their extensive online lives, Park, who also teaches yoga, believes that children appear to be separated from their bodies.
“If they get frustrated with something, they don’t know how to deal with that within their body. They don’t know how to shut their nervous system down and come back into a rest-and-digest state,” she said. “So they live in this constant state of panic and anxiety.”
Children who are fixated on technology are also isolated from nature, according to Park, and this separation from nature makes them less creative.
“They don’t go with their toes in the grass,” she said, adding “There’s a huge disconnect between kids and nature, a huge disconnect between what’s going on with them physically.”
Children who live online tend to consume other people’s content rather than developing their own ideas, according to Bonner.
“They’re pretty much being influenced by what they’re seeing,” she said. “That definitely contributes heavily to them not being as creative, because they’re being influenced by someone else.”
Children learn creativity in early childhood, according to Dr. Patrick Capriola, the founder of the education website Strategies for Parents. They must practise these activities without distractions in order to do them well.
He claims that when children spend more time staring at screens, they miss out on important learning opportunities. They risk being overwhelmed by stimuli instead of experiencing, processing, and engaging with life.
“The more time children spend in front of a screen, the less time they have to be with their imagination, focus on their thoughts, and experiment with them in creative ways, because the content behind the screen often does it for them,” Capriola said.
“This exposure has the potential to degrade their ability to develop these skills, because the child has less time to conceptualize ideas on their own.”
Theresa believes that American children aren’t creative because their problems are solved for them by others.
Children approach life as if someone else will always solve their problems because they have access to the internet and parents who intervene quickly rather than letting them struggle a little, she said.
“Every little problem that they have is immediately solved for them. And if it can’t be solved by their parents, they just find a resource online.”
When children do not face challenges, they do not know what to do when confronted with a difficult concept in school, according to Theresa.
According to her, teachers at her school are struggling to find a solution to the problem. How to help kids who won’t face challenges is a common topic of conversation in her teachers’ lounge. However, there are no satisfactory answers.
“We complain about the issue, and then we just accept it. Like, this is just how America is. This is how the kids are,” she said. “You just have to move on.”
This type of reliance on others is referred to as “learned helplessness” by psychologists. When parents over-assist their children, the children conclude that they lack agency.
The issues that arise from learned helplessness are similar to the issues that arise from spending too much time online. Depression, underachievement, and anxiety are among them.
Issues at School
Another reason why children do not create is the current state of education. Many aspects of the American educational system, according to Sax, make it difficult to pique children’s interest.
Unlike European schools, which focus on teaching children to enjoy school before teaching them academic skills, American schools frequently teach children skills before they are old enough to learn them, according to Sax’s book “Boys Adrift.”
Because boys develop more slowly than girls, he believes this trend is more harmful to them.
Boys who are too young to succeed in school feel stupid, according to Sax. They begin to despise school because they are forced to fail.
After nearly two decades of trying to persuade school leaders to change their teaching methods, Sax has discovered that they are, for the most part, unwilling to listen.
“When you approach a principal or school administrator with that kind of concern, you are a nuisance, and you will accomplish nothing. They may or may not say something nice, but it doesn’t really matter,” he said.
Park believes that schools do a poor job with children who aren’t academically gifted in her experience. Although everyone should be able to read and do math to some degree, not everyone needs to be an expert.
She believes that a child who is a creative artist, carpenter, or builder will often be let down by a school that focuses solely on academic subjects.
“I feel like those kids who maybe would have been creative in some of those other areas, maybe they would be an amazingly creative welder. They would be able to create a beautiful thing, given the opportunity,” Park said.
However, they are unable to enrol in this programme because they struggle in other academic subjects.
According to Page, college isn’t for everyone, and there are many other viable options for earning a living.
Times Are Changing
It’s possible that children are more aware of the future than adults, according to Robert Powers, a college counsellor.
Despite the fact that excessive online activity appears to be linked to mental health issues, Powers believes that online life is here to stay. Life will most likely become even more online in the future.
He believes that children will not be as creative, relationally connected, or ambitious as they once were. However, we’ll use the same terminology to describe what they do in different situations.
He predicts that this generation will become E-sport athletes and online friends.
“The child who was once glued to his screen was really ahead of his time, trying to balance two worlds that really ought to have been combined all along,” added Powers.
According to Powers, the future is a digital or “blended” world.
“And I do think that also means that the kids are all right.”
However, many teachers who knew children before they had access to the internet believe that today’s creativity, determination, and friendships are less than they could be.
Park stated that she has always been fascinated by technology. However, she has observed that spending too much time online isolates her students from the natural world and from human relationships.
“It’s not as good as it could be,” she added.