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Telling the Time - A Depreciating Skill?

Updated: May 18


I have recently found more and more articles online which claim that less and less children are unable to tell the time on a standard watch or analogue clock. A Huffington Post article by Amy Packman (I’ll link it below) actually states that schools are considering removing clocks from exam halls all together as “teens are unable to tell how much time they have left”… Teens!!!



In a world of smartphones, tablets and Apple Watches is this the beginning of the end for time telling? I want to call it a “skill” but I consider the ability to tell the time an absolute necessity, putting it on par with walking and talking. Is walking a skill? It has literally blown my mind and I wanted to talk about it more here.


Sure, it could be argued that with most things being digital and more things heading that way, do we really need to be able to tell the time on an analogue clock or watch? I suppose the same argument could be said about maps. I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere there is a shocking 2004 article on how people can’t read maps anymore as they rely more and more on their TomTom (remember those!).



As time goes on would we even know how to read a digital clock? Would we even need too? How long before we can’t even be arsed to look down at our screens and instead opt to just asking Siri or Alexa. It’s already creeping in because even today I have caught myself doing it… And I am sitting at my computer…. The clock is in the corner! I EVEN HAVE A WATCH ON!?!?



It seems that while the technology provides us with huge conveniences, it’s also making us extremely lazy. And while that’s bad enough, it is also costing us in vital skills.


Don’t get me wrong though, I am not against moving forward into a more advanced technological future. I actually look forward to it. But at the same time, not at the expense of basic life skills. Setting goals, targets and deadlines are based on time and being to tell it. Imagine working in your dream job and you are given a task that comes with a deadline. If you don’t complete it are you going to tell your boss “sorry, I didn’t know what time it was”. You sound like someone who’d say “the dog ate my homework”.


In an article by the clockexhibition.org (see below), it argues that the ability to tell the time allows us to establish boundaries and time frames which our world has been built on since the 17th century. Day to day life is broken down into sectioned routines – morning, noon and night – and it is vital for young people to grasp this. It goes on to state that being able to read a traditional clock not only enables us to read time in the present but also gives us the ability to plan ahead, especially when working to a schedule.

Dean Fletcher (Prsync.com) suggests that telling the time should be seen as an umbrella topic that encapsulates an assortment of cognitive skills that should be developed in early years – such as counting in 5’s or 10’s. However, Rachelle Hampton (slate.com) actually argued in favour of letting the skill slip in later years. She argued that, times are indeed changing and a teacher’s time could be better spent teaching more relevant skills than how to read an analogue clock.



It’s a tough one and I am most certainly biased because of my love for wristwatches and all things horology (including digital mediums). Then again, I also have a love for fountain pens… And when was the last time you received a handwritten letter from a friend?

Personally, I think it’ll come down to personal preference and what children can be bothered learning but also, what adults can be bothered teaching. Time is finite, and ironically, if you can tell the time you’d appreciate it more! And so, if it’s something you value and a skill you think your children should know then give them the gift of an analogue watch or put an old school alarm clock in their room. I don’t have kids but my nephews are going to be in for a treat this Christmas!


I just wonder of I will ever see the day where someone compliments me on my ability to tell the time as they do my handwriting! I hope not!



Thanks for your time! See you in the next one.



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