Among the presents Zoe (my great granddaughter) received for her second birthday was a photobook about her recent trip to Sydney. The book was enclosed in 20 X 15 cm red vinyl covers, the front one containing a window showing the title of the book.
But when Zoe removed the wrapping from her present, the first thing she saw was the unmarked back cover. Her immediate response was one of delight. “Ipad”, she announced.
She was obviously disappointed when she realised that the “ipad” was in fact a book (although some pleasure was restored when she saw that the book was all about her).
Barely two years of age, Zoe made clear that she is already an enthusiastic member of the electronic age.
This was the second of two incidents that “inspired” this post. The first was my viewing of a short film that Josh Gosh (author of The jaguar and its allies blog) brought to my attention. Please take a moment to view this heart-warming, informative and provocative film before reading further.
The two incidents came together in my mind as I reflected on the reality that, for children in our society, the electronic media are an inescapable and, increasingly, indispensable component of their lives. An associated reality is that the virtual and cyber worlds accessed by electronic media are luring children away from the outdoor play and nature experiences that are essential for the healthy development of their bodies and minds. Both realities, the second one especially, give reasons for concern – a particularly grave one being that our children are at risk of developing videophilia (a love of virtual reality) at the expense of biophilia (the love of natural reality).
With awareness of this risk surfacing (yet again) in my mind, I recalled the film and found myself pondering the thought that perhaps videophilia could be made an ally of biophilia – at least to some degree. It is now established scientifically that the human brain responds to pictorial and electronic images of nature much as it does to real-life nature experiences. So, why not use computers, ipads, smart phones and the like to bring nature to the minds of children in a way that nurtures biophilia?
She watched all six minutes of it intently, keeping her eyes on the screen even when her grandmother was commenting on some of the content.
“Did you enjoy the film?” I asked, to which she replied with her version of “Yes”.
But the real indication of the impact of the film on her came some minutes later.
I am sufficiently encouraged by Zoe’s response to begin exploring the Internet for other nature material for her to watch – to supplement, I stress, not replace real nature activities.
I know that this is not an original thing to be doing. And in a later post, I will write about a father who has managed to confine most of his children’s on-line viewing to You Tube compilations he has made of videos and films about animals and nature generally.