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Learning to live alongside Covid 19

Sally Goddard Blythe

It is now 11 weeks since my first entry describing the various stresses and fears we were experiencing as we attempted to adapt to self-isolation two weeks before the government lock-down was imposed.

As the weeks have gone by, I have found that amidst the restrictions to our normal way of life, there have also been benefits.  These include:

  1. Time to enjoy being at home; time to cook, to nurture the garden, to sit in the garden and read more fiction than I have had time to indulge in for more than 30 years.

  2. The kindness and company of neighbours (at a reasonable social distance) with whom we are normally far too busy or distracted to interact.

  3. Concern for and appreciation of distant loved ones.

  4. Discovering beautiful walks and countryside on our doorstep and the time to explore them.

  5. How less money is needed to live well, if we live simply. Negligible petrol costs, parking and days out; no need for new clothes.

  6. Less waste.

  7. Less greed.

  8. Less need to travel with subsequent benefits to the environment.

  9. Clear skies and starlit nights with lower levels of pollution.

  10. Learning with difficulty how to teach courses, participate in international meetings, carry out webinar interviews and client consultations online.

  11. Hearing others talk (often without yet consciously recognising what it is) about technology fatigue. In other words, that although technology has enabled many of us to continue to work in different ways, a realisation that working solely through this medium is not the same as contact in physical time and space.  There is something more tiring about continuous online work as virtual communication drains energy and utilises brain resources in a different way.   In starting to acknowledge this effect, perhaps in the future there will be a renewed desire for more leisure time to be spent in social engagement and physical interaction with the environment and less time spent on smart phones, social media and electronic gaming.

  12. Children straining at the leash to be able to go out and to play freely – to exercise the natural energy to grow, explore and develop as physical beings in a physical world.

This week I was asked whether I thought the potentially negative aspects of electronic media on children’ s development that I had written about in 2010 (What Babies and Children Really Need),  had worsened in the last 10 years, particularly in the light of many children as young as six now owning a smart ‘phone and parents using these devices as an alternative means of controlling children, to being “present” with their children.

I think the general trend was toward increased use.   I have witnessed toddlers learning to “swipe” before they learned to speak and reacting to objects that did not have a “touch screen” with bewilderment when swiping did not produce a reaction; parents and other adults so distracted by the interruptions of their own electronic devices that they were not “available” for their families.  Constant “noise” generated by devices that interfere not only with concentration on cognitive tasks but the ability to think and muse, so important for creative thinking and problem solving.  These devices intended to help us were at risk of starting to regulate our lives.  Many years ago, I said that technology should be “a tool for life, not a way of life”.

Only time will tell whether as restrictions are lifted, these discoveries are only a short-term gain from the Covid 19 crisis or whether it has goaded us into re-appraising how we live our lives in the future.

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