The Headteacher Column with Mark Ronan

Mark Ronan, headmaster of Pocklington School.
Mark Ronan, headmaster of Pocklington School.

We recently took delivery of a new consignment of our Pocklington School Bears, in anticipation of an order from Father Christmas.

As always, I was slightly alarmed by the reminder that it’s already Christmas present-buying time again.

The school has recently taken delivery of our Pocklington School Bears.

The school has recently taken delivery of our Pocklington School Bears.

This prompted another “to-do” list – and much frowning on my part as I tried to come up with original gift ideas for family.

I know I’m not alone: at this time of year the shops are full of people scratching their heads as they search for just the right thing to make a recipient’s face light up.

We consider their interests, but then reflect on the last time you had a meaningful conversation.

I don’t mean a quick chat, email or text or message exchange… I mean a proper discussion about what’s going on in their lives that excites or interests them.

We all move at a pace from one task to the next and barely pause for breath as we try to fit everything in.

There’s no wonder that actually stopping to pass the time of day – as opposed to a rat-tat-tat exchange of information – is pushed down the priority list.

Age UK’s research shows 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with friends or family for an entire month.

Worryingly, only 46% of people aged 16-24 say they talk to their neighbours, compared to 87% of those aged 65-74.

This last statistic concerns me because it suggests the trend of diminishing communication is increasing, but it’s no real surprise as the younger we are, the more devices are relied upon to connect.

But I’m not pointing the finger at our youngest generation; I think all of us have succumbed to the inexorable march of new technology.

Earlier this year, a survey found over a third (36%) of children had asked their parents to stop checking their mobile devices. 22% of students felt that mobile devices stopped their families enjoying each other’s company and 82% of children said meal-times should be device-free.

Interestingly, nearly half of students said they “wouldn’t mind” if all their devices were taken away for the weekend.

I can hear the cries of horror now if that were to happen across the land, and I confess my own would be among them.

But it is a relief when phone and computer are turned off.

Instead I am going to make more effort to find out what my family and friends are doing and thinking, rather relying on a perfunctory exchange.

Can I also suggest you take a look at this short video on digital addiction? It certainly made me think!

Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9uydDEez3c