Nothing is more synonymous with the twenty-first century than the image of a child on his or her smart phone, tablet, video game console, television, and/or laptop. But with all this external stimulation, has childhood development been helped or hindered?
Daniel Dervin is concerned that today's childhood has become unmoored from its Rousseauist-Wordsworthian anchors in nature. He considers childrens development to be inextricably linked with inwardness, a psychological concept referring to the awareness of ones self as derived from the world and the internalization of such reflections. Inwardness is the enabling space that allows ones thoughts, experiences, and emotions to be processed. It is an important adaptive marker of human evolution.
In The Digital Child, Dervin traces the evolution of how we have perceived childhood in the West, and thus what we have meant by inwardness, from pre-history to today. He identifies six transformational stages: tribal, pedagogical, religious, humanist, rational, and citizen leading up to a new stage, the digital child. This stage has emerged from current unprecedented and pervasive technological culture. Dervin delves deeply into each stage that precedes today's, studying myths, literary texts, the visual arts, cultural histories, media reports, and the traditions of parenting, pediatrics, and pedagogy. Weaving together approaches from biology, culture, and psychology, Dervin revisits who we once were as a species in order to enable us to grasp who we are becoming, and where we might be heading, for better or worse.
Daniel Dervin is professor emeritus of English at the University of Mary Washington. He is the author of several books and continues to publish in applied psychoanalysis and psychohistory.