A childhood of fairytales and technology

It’s your average family lunch in the 21st century. Phones are hovering above the table. In place of a colorful plate and spoon on your little cousin’s high chair, an iPad rests with its very own freestanding case, playing Frozen on repeat. Instead of sitting on a foam puzzle mat flipping through The Berenstain Bears or Little Golden Books, a four-year-old is reaching out to her dad’s phone, asking for the Wi-Fi password like a proper adult.

In the face of it all, you might begin to wonder about today’s youth, and about the state of fairytales and storytelling in this tech proficient generation.

A childhood of fairytales and technology (Colored)

Kids these days

Born during the mid-2000s to early-2010s, kids under 12 are the fastest among all generations to pick up tech-related information. It’s interesting to see, when talking to children of this age, how much influence technology has on their lifestyle, and if they are still aware of the classic fairytales the rest of us grew up with.

In an honest and snappy interview of children aged 8 to 11, a preferential divide is seen between fairytales and tech-use. Kristen Torres, the youngest of the group, professes her love for Rapunzel. Similarly, Emira Lao is captivated by Sofia the First, a TV series about the adventures of an eight-year-old commoner-turned-royal. But just as these kids were exposed to princes and princesses, they were also exposed to gadgets, such as iPads and laptops, early on in their lives. Kristen and Emira only use them at home, though, and not in school—it seems that being younger, they still appreciate the magic to be found in these stories and fairytales.

Hanee Liao, 10, and Danielle Yang, 11, are the two preteens in the group with mixed responses. Hanee uses her iPad for studying and playing, but admits that storytelling is still better, citing The Trouble with the Curve as her favorite story. Danielle, however, is firmly behind gadget use, given how she lugs her Mac to school daily. According to her, email submissions are common in school, and having a laptop makes it easy for her to do projects, listen to music, and play Minecraft, her favorite game. She also supplements her laptop with a smartphone, wherein updates on her Instagram feed come very frequently. The upcoming generation, it seems, is becoming more and more tech-savvy with each passing day.


Land of empty playgrounds

Technology has become a portal to accessible information, and there’s been a growing fear about these sweeping developments. “I’m afraid they’re gonna be distant to books,” says Renzo Santos (ISE, ‘15) who admits he was encouraged to not only watch The Lion King, but to read it as well. “With the pictures and stuff, I think I still have those [books],” he remembers fondly. Renzo has a 15-year-old brother who studies at La Salle Greenhills (LSGH), a school that has been implementing the use of tablets in the classroom for upper year high school students. His brother then admitted that studying became harder because of the distractions. “When I go to LSGH, you could see kids playing with their tablets. They’re not playing with each other,” Renzo adds.

“Playgrounds are always empty,” says quick-witted professor Dr. Beverly Sarza of the Philosophy Department. Dr. Sarza believes it’s not just the culture of reading that has transformed among children, but even in the way they are being raised, from their social skills to their kinetic skills. However, Dr. Sarza commends comic book writer, Stan Lee, and his involvement with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for influencing a whole new generation of comic book readers through films featuring lesser known characters, such as the critically acclaimed Guardians of the Galaxy.

Ang daya,” Elijah Quevedo (I, PSM-ADV) quickly remarks upon finding out that her blockmate Charlise Lagamayo was able to use iPads in high school. “Parang mej magulo,” Charlise admits. “Minsan nakaka-miss pa rin [ang] mga books.” “Because you can smell books,” jokes Elijah. It’s a lighthearted exchange, but one that shows the strange appeal that books have, that technology can never quite replicate—a sort of connection between the reader and the pages bound together.


The sequel

Early last March, The Writers’ Guild launched Blind Date with A Book, a first time fundraising activity where books were wrapped in brown paper, given minimal captions, and sold along the tables at Miguel Walk. The project was well received by DLSU students; however, other questions probe us. Is there a lack of creativity in today’s generation of writers, one that has led to a growing disinterest for stories? If the organization continues this event annually, will the changing members of the student body 10 to 15 years from now still appreciate a bundle of pages bound in leather? Will ID 125 see the value in a Blind Date with A Book?

Potterhead and vibrant Writers’ Guild officer Hannah Pabalan (II, LIM-LGL) believes that the problem lies within publishers who prioritize connections and sales over actual talent. “We lack the exposure to showcase the creativity that we actually possess,” she claims. She also believes that pop culture tends to be a double-edged sword, especially when stories like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey are sensationalized and glorified by so many. Hannah believes that there may be a possibility that books will have become a novelty to students in 10 to 15 years time, but she doesn’t think it likely. “[Books] have always been an enduring, constant thing. We didn’t expect to [sell] 112 books in a day for this [book sale],” she shares. Her optimistic sentiments mirror those of Philosophy professor Dr. Raj Mansukhani, who reassures that film and e-books will never completely replace the reading of fairytales. He remains one of the professors in DLSU with a no-gadgets policy in class, but for good reasons, which he himself has explored.


Another reality

“Children begin to understand what the world outside is like,” begins Dr. Mansukhani about the link of fairytales and real life. Using Little Red Riding Hood as an example, he describes the many inklings, doubts, and troubles the character went through. “But notice how a lot of people are like that?” He asks. “It seems to show the child that there are wolves out there and you need to be smart enough to know how to outwit them.” He describes how stories prepare a child’s psyche, nature, and response to internal struggles and conflicts, and how this manifests later on in life as well. Perhaps this is why literature major Hannah grew up loving the eccentric Belle from Beauty and the Beast—because they shared the same eccentricities and a love for books.

As a father Dr. Mansukhani tried getting his daughter a Kindle instead of an iPad because it had less distractions. However, at 12-years-old she still prefers a book in hand. Even when she was younger, he recalls her being drawn to picture books, and how he would make up stories for her as he would speak. He admits that he would be concerned if his daughter’s school were to implement the use of gadgets, and he reasons that a lot of research has come out recently with findings on better retention and comprehension for book readers as opposed to tablet readers. “The figures are very bothersome in the sense that there’s such a big difference,” he adds. Reading straight from a book is a multisensory experience for anyone, from feeling and flipping through the pages to making marks with a pen or highlighter. “[The effect is] your appreciation, your experience is much deeper.”

There’s more to the habit of reading than the unexplainable connection between a reader and the chapter. As fairytales and mythology develop character, reading from a book sharpens focus and attentiveness. Dr. Mansukhani himself notices his attention span getting shorter whenever he finds himself spending a long time scrolling through his iPad. And with a shorter attention span, a person becomes more reactive and less aware of their surroundings. “So when I ask my students not to use their cellphones or their iPads, it’s really training in focusing, in paying attention,” he explains. “Because even if you think you can multitask… research has shown that people who claim they can multitask are the very ones who can’t.”

In a day and age where “ctrl find” is more convenient than flipping through pages, and where stories come in the form of luminescent flat screens, some things remain timeless—reading fairy tales, telling stories, people who love the smell of books. So before throwing out a shelf gathering dust from simpler times, think about someone who might enjoy it as you once did. Or better yet, flip it open, and read your favorites again for the first time in ages.

Adrienne Tan

By Adrienne Tan

Stephanie Tan

By Stephanie Tan

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