Unplugging and reflecting: What the youth need indeed

Technology and connectivity are the new normal and the order of the day of today. They have undoubtedly made the impossible more possible (albeit limited to an extent), such as enabling academics of different ethnicities and territories converge through Google Meet or Zoom to attend conferences and forums, transacting business online and on time without having to swipe a card or scramble for wads of cash or a handful of clinking dimes, defending our theses or dissertations in front of our panelists, and holding online classes, among many activities. Because we now have internet and a slew of gadgets, we can now do things that we found previously impossible and tedious to boot.

The youth nowadays are hooked on gadgets, playing games, searching names, creating memes, and posting pictures that look like colorful, lucid dreams. In this time of crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have taken advantage of the surplus of time to do what they love the most: play games. However, it is lamentable to observe that many of our youth forget to regulate themselves when using gadgets because they lack the discipline, initiative, and foresight to think of the long-term benefits of delaying gratification as well as to be aware of the consequences of increased exposure to the topsy-turvy and sometimes seedy virtual world.

We teachers (and parents, if we indeed are) have the responsibility to model gratification delay, diversion towards responsibility, and focus on our vocation and tasks so that our youth and our own children would know how to deal with boredom and denial of the realities and vicissitudes of life. As users of technology, we are expected to learn when to rest and unplug and when to plug in and work. We are also expected to learn how to behave decently yet sincerely and warmly even in cyberspace not only because our profession and vocation dictate so but also because we are by nature compassionate, understanding, and rational.

The painful reality today is that our youth (and even us) forget to unplug and reflect due to the overwhelming nature of gadgets and the world of internet, just like being exposed to the bright lights of downtown avenues and boulevards or to the visually cloying neon lights of billboards. We also forget to do so because we have a lot of tasks on hand, as in the case of us educators/educational leaders, that we need to accomplish in so short a time. Reflecting from time to time is not sometimes in our inner Webster because we only want to win the race of life or, on the part of our youth, win the game and emerge the victor. As a result, we misplace our values and forget the beauty that human touch and placid, pensive silence provide us.

How should our youth unplug? First, we must tell them that they can use their gadgets within a certain time limit and impress upon them that there is more to life than gadgets. Second, we should guide them in harnessing their artistic talents by letting them re-enjoy the simplicity and dexterity that come with using traditional materials such as watercolors, crayons, scissors, craft paper, fountain pens, and other materials for arts and crafts; arts are the best way to help our youth to unplug even momentarily from cyberspace and gaming. Third, we should encourage them to read physical books and share with them what we have learned; it is best for us to show our youth that we are indeed glued on the pages of our books. Fourth, we must make our youth help in household chores so that they can discover their true sense of self-worth and self-concept through elbow grease and real-life wits. Lastly, we should also be there for our youth when they study because we are there to guide them towards making informed decisions and educated strategies to conquering the problems and facts of life.

The beauty of unplugging is that it comes with reflection, whether we like it or not. We teach and model reflective behavior through our decision making, life choices, and delay of gratification. Reflecting as an activity among our youth must be reinforced because we teach them how to think of the consequences of their every action- especially in cyberspace and gaming- and to behave appropriately and compassionately. It also helps our youth to become more aware of their impulses, urges, and passions, which must be kept under wraps at least and then held by the neck to avoid untoward regrets. In addition, reflecting also equips our youth with the power to learn and imbibe appropriate life skills into their daily lives.

Unplugging and reflecting are what our youth truly need to be happy…and to be equipped to harness the power to learn and do now that classes are about to start in this time of crisis.