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Reading For Pleasure

‘Technology is to blame for falling standards in Young People’ – Or is it?

The Power of Reading:

At Moorside we strongly believe that everything changes when we read for pleasure. At times, this belief can be hard to instil in our young people. Reading for pleasure has been credited with improving concentration, mental health, personal relationships and obviously, educational outcomes. The impact of reading can stretch through our lives and help define our identity and establish our own personal voice.

Year 10 student, Phoebe Doherty-Ozobiane, is one of our most avid readers. Known for devouring a range of books, she can rarely be seen without a book in hand. Recently, Phoebe was asked to write an article for her English homework under the title ‘Technology is to blame for the falling standards in young people.’  what she produced is testament to the power of reading for pleasure:

 

“Technology is to blame for falling standards in young people.”

Aah! A Robot Uprising! …… Oh, wait!

Imagine, the year is 2057 and our ever-so-helpful robot friends have unexpectedly turned on us (but judging by the amount of robot takeover films, I think we saw this one coming). Scientists have spent years creating anything and everything to make the lives of humans easier up to the point where, despite us being us and denying it until our dying breaths, there is not much of a reason for our existence anymore. Our technological knowledge has advanced significantly farther than snapchat filters and emojis and we even have a robot to think for us. But, by virtue of a lilliputian glitch in the single robot mothership (why someone thought it would be smart to put everything in one place, I have no idea), every android in the universe realises it is ‘international hate on humans day’ - and so destroy the planet.

          Naturally, the hero and/or heroine manages to deactivate the colossal bomb with its t-minus 5 minutes countdown just in time to save us pitiful humans and restore the robots to their previous, hospitable state. Meanwhile, in an alternate universe, back in 2017, the robots are still taking over from the last place you might expect… the terrifying black (or maybe rose gold) box that gets minutely slimmer and larger and flashier with each upgrade. A force to be reckoned with even for the strongest of foe; much more powerful, however, when face to face with humankind’s precious offspring: the cowering teen.

          Mercilessly these cellular devices grab children from the womb, wrapping them in their effortlessly-smashed embrace and brainwashing their tiny, easily influences minds. Of course the parents strive to save their robot-children from an untimely death, but they cannot help providing the little ones with something to keep them happy. Gone are the days of friends and books (though not face), when one could meander through the streets for days on end without the means or need to contact one’s parents. Entertainment was found around every corner or turning of a page, differing from the cheesy TV soaps and cliché American chick flicks of the 21st century. Here, your child does not need to be able to make his own entertainment, for he does not even need to leave the comfort of his bedroom to find a remedy for his boredom that lasts for hours on end. It sounds a joyous existence until the lights go out, you realise you’ve had a powercut and the Wi-Fi is most definitely not working.

“Why read a book when you can just watch the film?” is a question so frequently expressed to torment the poor bookworm mind. I, a devout bibliophile, find a twitching eye muscle or two has developed from such childish enquiries and I often digress from my task to focus my attention on not flinging a fist into someone’s femur. As one would expect, the natural response is usually to hurriedly hush them so I can get on with my book, but it occurred to me that even the simple, pleasurable act of reading a book is outweighed for most by the laziness that can be blamed only on the marvellous invention of the camera. How can it be, that letting someone show you something with loud sounds and bright colours is so obviously better than freeing one’s own eyes to look at a piece of paper, and from it spring different people from different worlds with different lives, all of it in your own mind? In times gone by, the decision would instantaneously be the latter, but in times to come, the book may not even be an option.

The general lack of reading leads to a general lack of the “Queen’s English” being spoken by the general population (a fact that, I’m sure, affects the Queen greatly). Many young people now are unable to string a coherent sentence together without a few “like”s and “y'know”s and such despicable words as “ginormous” and “fleek” making an entrance. Shudder! Even the acronym lol finds itself being used as a substitute for laughing instead of the action itself. In some ways, humanity is devolving back into those aimless Neanderthals; we will all be walking around, grunting at each other before we know it. And somehow we all manage to understand the jumbled mess of sounds our speech has become, yet find it difficult to untangle the thoughtful, rather beautiful jigsaw of Shakespeare’s elocution. He himself would maketh a fool of thy own being with thy own words…… eth?

However, it is my guess that these blundering youths rarely have a chance to perfect their articulation, choosing instead to spend their time locked away in a tower with no exit, their charming Prince calling to them from below their window. Or maybe just in their rooms, snapchatting on their phones whilst simultaneously binge-watching some horrendous reality show of the likes of TOWIE and Made In Chelsea and Geordie Shore. Everything ingested through the eyes of the innocent (although maybe not so much after even one second of Geordie Shore) sews an image into their fragile minds of what ‘Real Life’ looks like; many juveniles have a warped sense of reality after hours stalking the lives and dramas of their favourite celebrities. When at last they’re forced into the horror of the living world, they are already tainted with the unreality of reality and so find it difficult understanding simple, everyday notions like respecting the words of their elders and acting in a civil, polite manner with their peers. Essentially we are breeding human beings that do not have the most basic, vital traits of a decent human being.

Sirens are known for their sultry, sweet, smooth voices and their skill at drawing young sailors to their unavoidable watery deaths. No man is in a position to disregard her influence, they are irresistibly drawn to her like a moth to a flame. The same can also be said about the mobile phone: a siren in its own right, capable of entrancing young humans - man and woman - even from a different room, though we are so haled to it that it is rarely far from our side. Like a beacon of glowing light, it tows us ever closer into its cyber stream of unreliable data and dank memes; we are distracted even from the most simple of tasks (my sister often goes to the toilet and stays there for prolonged periods of time, always glued to her phone. I just have to hope, pray to God, that she isn’t taking selfies in there). Even waking up is a chore when their morning goes a little something like: wake up, turn on phone, open snapchat, send morning streaks, tell the world they have woken up (via snapchat story), open instagram, scroll down feed for half an hour, do bathroom activities with phone in hand and taking mirror selfies every three point two minutes, sit on *insert app of your choice* for forty-nine minutes, get dressed, have breakfast, leave house and put this event on snapchat story. It takes a lot less time than you'd think. But the first and last thing they see in a day is always, without a doubt, their precious, shiny, new iPhone. A pitiful existence, really.

You would expect, it's name being social media, that the applications would make these young delinquents more sociable and provide them with a degree of skill in the art of communication. Your expectations, however, exceed the reality by a rather ridiculous amount. As these mantrap devices bring in the aimless youth, they seem to forget that a world exists outside their personal bubble of flower crown filters and tag your friend meme posts. Many people become isolated from family and friends, even when talking to them online and so have trouble interacting with other Homo Sapiens worth the bother. While society today means that most children and young people are in possession of unrivalled amounts of confidence, their boldness in a working environment (say, an interview for a job or role in school, speaking assessments, etc) may not be as strong.

Without the positive influence of being surrounded by and interacting with people their own age, many of the younger generation show a general lack of empathy for others and often hold sadistic tendencies: readily making fun of others’ pain and torment for their own personal entertainment. This almost sociopathic trait could possibly stem from the increased number of children playing violent games and watching films and TV programmes (like Geordie Shore) that feature many violent, racist, sexist (in particular misogynistic), homophobic, ableist or substance abusing characters and themes. Media made specifically for older audiences are becoming more frequently viewed by those who shouldn’t through websites that are too easily accessed by anyone who wants to. To blame also, are those meme/pun accounts that post videos of real people performing disgusting acts on random, innocent members of the public. Inappropriate content such as these are watched all too readily by children and young adults who think they are funny, when they are anything but. I often catch myself in similar situations, except mine includes an utterly ridiculous joke, the blank, disappointed faces of my peers and the sound of my own hysterical laughter.

Now let me tell you a funny story. My dearest sister, who is prime example of the teen-robot that is sweeping the nation, wouldn’t be caught dead without her phone and has it on her person at all times (usually inches from her face with her body sprawled awkwardly across any available surface). Her best friend is her mobile and all you ever hear is her moaning about everything she sees on her feeds and how much she hates everyone she follows. Then follows a selfie session.

A bad word is the last thing you would expect this little phone-droid to utter about the wonder of technology, but a bad word is what I received. Specifically the all too true statement that acknowledged the worldwide fact that “no one [of the younger generation] does anything”. Within the instant this sentence was uttered, I felt myself pressing surprisingly hard on my pen as I wrote this little titbit down; a thoroughly humoured chortle attempted to crawl its way up my throat. I was only partly successful in keeping it down. At least the youngster realised what devastation her kind were wreaking upon the planet. Although it may be, I fear, too late for us - the non addicts are few and far between in the population below the age of 45. But just remember, if you notice your child turning to the dark side and have to run, screaming to the family doctor with, “Doctor, Doctor, I think my son’s turning into a robot” pouring from your lips, it may not spell the end for your little one. Or does it? Dun dun duun!