Benedict on Blogging?

Now here's an interesting story. The pope, during his audience with administrators and students from the University of Parma, Italy, spoke a great deal about the 'dangers' of being too wrapped up in the technological advances of an age.

Students today are in danger of losing this balance, the Holy Father explained, due to the increased use of information technologies. “On the one hand, they run the risk of a growing reduction in their capacity for concentration and mental application on an individual level; on the other, that of isolating themselves individually in an increasingly virtual reality. (CNA)

The crux of Benedict's point seems to be that an overabundance of technology diminishes the need and appreciation of a genuinely social environment, disabling students from forming "constructive relations with other." On the other hand, says the pope, human interaction allows for “the opportunity to mature intellectually, morally and civilly, through the great questions that challenge the conscience of the contemporary man."

How could I disagree with all that? It's pretty foundational stuff (not to mention the very topic of my undergraduate thesis!) But how often is it simply overlooked?

While eating out the other day, I was seated next to a table full of young girls—perhaps 13ish—accompanied by two older ladies, perhaps a mother and grandmother. It looked like a birthday party. Of course, I couldn't tell that from the conversation or interaction between the girls, but I simply guessed it based on the number of kids and their similar ages. The mother and the grandmother sat stoically on one end of the table, with eyes glazed over staring off into oblivion. The girls, on the other hand, all giggled to themselves. Each of them had in her hand some sort of cellphone/PDA/smartphone device, and was occupying herself playing games and sending text messages. I can only assume that the text messages weren't being sent to one another...

If this is any indication of what the Holy Father is getting at—and I think it is—then this shouldn't be something simply for speculation. The very future of our society hinges upon how well we teach children and young people to interact with technology. (Even blogging as much as I do is probably indicative of some overuse of the internet, I admit.) The real trick is figuring out how to enable kids to be proficient with technological advances while at the same time not allowing them to be consumed by them. Unfortunately, the pope doesn't give a quick answer for this. But I think if he had to point in one direction, it would be toward the parents.