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Believe it or not, young people do know when to put away their phones, finds Billy MacInnes

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Billy

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22 March 2019 | 0

Over the last week or so I have been peripherally involved in a local amateur youth musical production as part of the backstage crew. Standing in the wings, watching a bunch of kids acting, singing and dancing together and working as a group to put on the best performance they can as a collective unit, I couldn’t help thinking “wouldn’t it be great if they could do this all the time?”

It’s inspirational to see it and, strangely, perhaps more so from the wings when you’re involved, however tangentially, in the process than it might be when you’re sitting in the audience. And as we went through almost five hours of rehearsal on a bank holiday Monday, it occurred to me that I hadn’t once looked at my phone and neither had many of the kids in the show. They were too busy doing something creative together – and chatting among themselves backstage if they weren’t on the stage – to have the time to stare at a phone screen except, perhaps, to text their parents and update them on how long it would be before they were finished.

All of them, whatever part they played, were enjoying a shared experience and a very meaningful one at that. And I couldn’t help feeling that what they were doing could never be replicated by technology. True, it could be made easier by technology, for example in terms of the sound and lighting equipment they could use, but it still required the kids to do the performing.

That didn’t mean it couldn’t be rendered obsolete by technology however if, for instance, the kids decided it would be easier to sit at home sending chats to each other or sharing posts and videos rather than participating together in a creative activity in the flesh.

It’s interesting, nevertheless, that so much of what young people use technology for is based around sharing. You can often see three or four kids huddled around a single phone screen watching a funny or cute video and then, when it’s finished, another child will brandish their phone with a different video and they’ll look at that.

The urge to share something, whether it’s a joke or a story or an observation, hasn’t gone away. The big change is that the phone has become the de facto platform for them to ‘share’ something that will make their peers laugh or go ‘aww’ and, as a result, the thing they share has also changed. Much of the content is not something that they are expressing themselves but something that has been created somewhere else by another person in a form that can be easily disseminated as widely as possible.

Does it matter? I don’t know. All I know is that there’s a big difference between 30 children or more joining together to put on a show and three or four gathered around a phone screen looking at a comic video starring a cat or a dog. No matter how advanced the technology becomes, the latter experience will never match the creativity and positivity that comes with the former.

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