Technology – this generation’s Pied Piper?

Claire Harvey, Community Development Officer for Central Scotland Regional Equality Council argues technology is stifling our young people’s imagination.

Video killed the radio star and technology killed the Lost Boys. Games consoles, television, tablets and apps, download this and stream that. What happened to our Peter Pans soaring through the sky to Never Never Land, or our princesses trapped in dragon guarded towers? In other words, what happened to our children? Where did their imagination go? How do we get it back?

As technology advances and more of our lives are lived through it I have found that children and young people are spending more time on games and applications and less time playing and interacting face to face (as opposed to Face Time!).  I believe that one of the side effects of this is that children spend less time using their imagination and make believing. That is not to say that this is dead, they are still able to do this (I mean Santa brings them the tablets and laptops) but I fear it is at risk of becoming extinct.Imagination pic

When I was growing up I remember quite vividly playing with my friends building dens, playing princesses, hopscotch, tig or any number of games. I never owned a games console, it never really appealed to me but it didn’t matter because I could make My Little Pony fly and my dens were bigger than Cinderella’s castle! I don’t dispute that some games and apps might be educational, I know some are intended to be exactly that but I do believe that everything should be in moderation, children and young people should be encouraged to look past a screen and to the outdoors and beyond! I also believe they will learn more without this technology, we all managed before it came along after all.

Gadgets and gizmos cannot replace the magical adventures that we take with our imagination and I have found during my work with children and youngsters that with the right encouragement, they will really grow. When I first started the drama/youth group they really struggled to act out anything of their own, instead choosing to act out scenes from their favourite cartoon with one even asking how they were supposed to move like a tree! Slowly but surely this changed and before I knew it I had the next generation of actors and playwrights standing right in front of me. And the added bonus is that not only are they having fun but they are also learning how to work together, how to communicate, how to share. Show me an app that will teach them that better!

So I say turn off the consoles, the tablets and the phones and let the young be young.  Shut away the technology and make a den, get out into the wilds.  Let them lose themselves in a far off imaginative land before their childhood and youth is lost to them.

And so I leave you with this quote which sums up this article quite accurately:-

“Why can’t you fly now mother?”

“Because I am a grown up, dearest. When people grow up they forget the way.”

“Why do they forget the way?”

“Because they are no longer gay and innocent and heartless. It is only the gay and innocent and heartless who can fly” – J. M. Barrie.

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Are we there yet?

Jim photoJim Sweeney, Chief Executive of YouthLink Scotland examines the impact of the new National Youth Work Strategy ahead of a debate in the Scottish Parliament.

This month, with the publication of the new National Youth Work Strategy, we took another step forward with Scotland’s young people and their right to grow up in a nation that truly embraces the principle of opportunity for all its citizens.

Youth work was born in Victorian times when there was a fear of young people being in moral danger, of being abused and dehumanised. Organisations such as the YMCA  and YWCA and our uniformed organisations came into being to offer young people positive alternatives alongside exciting and worthwhile activities which would help them in mind, body and spirit. Fundamentally the offer hasn’t changed and in excess of half a million young Scots participate in youth work on a regular basis.

Youth work offers incredible value for money, with research showing social return on investment of around £13 for every £1 invested

In 2007 with the publication of Moving Forward, the first strategy for the sector, the key challenge was to improve the recognition of the value and role of youth work in developing and delivery key government priorities and strategies. We’ve come a long way from then. YouthLink Scotland’s Statement on the nature and purpose of youth work has received widespread support and its ethos is central to the delivery of the new strategy.

The statement sets out the unique selling points of the sector, its ability to attract young people from across society, including those for whom traditional routes into education, training or employment don’t work and positive options based on a philosophy of partnership and joint working with young people.

YouthScotland-84This new strategy is a blueprint for the future and recognises the central role young people have in their own development and within the wider community. Young people should be codesigning the services they benefit from. This assets-based approach is underpinned by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and fits squarely with the community empowerment agenda as laid out by the Christie Commission.

Maximising young people’s life chances is what this strategy is all about. It focuses on how youth work can be supported to achieve a raft of national outcomes. As part of the government’s preventative agenda, youth work offers incredible value for money, with research showing social return on investment of around £13 for every £1 invested. The Scottish Government already values the significant contribution the sector makes. In its many different forms, youth work is involved in innovative partnerships with schools, colleges, employers, sports, health and justice to develop skills, opportunities, self-confidence and a sense of community cohesion for our young people.

Youth work has a significant role to play within Curriculum for Excellence, supporting young people as they transition into further learning and employment. Partnerships between the sector, local authorities, Scottish Government and its agencies including Education Scotland are vital to such positive outcomes for young people.

To borrow that almost universal phrase uttered by kids on a journey: are we there yet? The answer from the youth work sector is no, but we are travelling down a road which I hope will strengthen the sector and ultimately lead to sustained core investment.

Jim Sweeney, Chief Executive of YouthLink Scotland. The new National Youth Work Strategy will be debated in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon.