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Societal Change and the Growing Divide Between Knowing and Understanding

by David Elkind
July/August 2011
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Article Link: http://www.childcareexchange.com/article/societal-change-and-the-growing-divide-between-knowing-and-understanding/5020039/

Social and economic changes affect children indirectly, through the modifications they engender in parental behavior. No-fault divorce laws, for example, made divorce easier and led to a substantial increase in the number of separated families. Separation necessarily challenges parental social/emotional equilibrium, which in turn affects their children. In the same way, an economic recession means that parents who are affected by it are anxious and depressed about their ability to provide adequately for their children. When parents are deeply troubled, this affects their parenting.

In contrast to social and economic change, technological change can impact children directly without mediation by parents. The introduction of television is a case in point. While parents may, at least initially, monitor children’s television viewing, what children take away from television is not under their control. Television, computer games, the Internet, and cell phones, to illustrate, have changed children’s understanding of space, time, and causality. In many ways, children growing up today have a very different reality than did children growing up before the electronic age.

Consider the concept of space. Before television and particularly before the Internet, space was understood primarily in terms of personal experience and distance measures. To really know about a foreign country, you ...

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