I had an interesting conversation with some old grade school friends the other day regarding how technology how will be used by future generations. We were all around the same age (mid 20’s) and had grown up during the rise of the internet and could literally remember a time where the latest technology was a brick Nokia phone with the “Snake” game. It was interesting looking back because we all distinctly remember the day we received our first cell phone, our first computer, our first broadband connection and, of course, our first AIM account. While each unique moment was different for all of us, it was notable in that we all received our first personal technology device around age 13 or 14 after we had managed to complete our elementary school years fending for ourselves with the family PC running Windows 95.
One of my friends mentioned that he returned to visit our old elementary school and was taken aback by just how much technology was ingrained in the curriculum now. The computer lab, which used to be filled with a few dozen PCs, was completely gone. In its place (theoretically), each student was required to have their own personal laptop. The lockers were retrofitted with power outlets to charge the computers between use. We were amazed by just how much the emphasis on technology changed in such a short span of time. But we couldn’t help but wonder what the implications were for starting technology at such a young age.
As someone who does not have children, I don’t mean to judge or question that parenting styles of someone with a young child; I cannot possibly understand or comprehend what goes on when it comes to raising children. But there a times where I question if there is simply too much technology being instilled in children at too young an age.
For example, I was at a restaurant a few months ago, catching up with friends whom I hadn’t seen in awhile. At the table just behind me, was a father and son waiting for their meal. The child, who couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6, had an iPad Pro on his lap and was watching cartoons at full volume while he waited for his food to arrive. While I’m not one to be easily upset over small irritations, I truly could not keep up in my conversation as I was distracted by the noise from the iPad behind me. Again, I cannot judge what was going on, for all I know that was the only time all month the boy had the iPad, but I cannot help but think back to when I was younger and how I had nothing in my pocket to preoccupy me. I had to either sit still and patiently wait, or I engage in conversations with my family. I’m simply concerned by having such constant and powerful technology interactions at such a young age.
I’ve heard numerous stories of people in their 20’s, 30’s or 40’s going into a bar and recognizing the etiquette of keeping your phone in your pocket while socializing. A mentor of mine recently told me he goes one step further and leaves his phone at home when he goes out as a challenge to be more in the moment. He is never more aware of our society’s current attachment to our phone than when he is left waiting at the bar while his group of friends are in the bathroom. Typically, in these situations we’d whip out our phone and catch up on social media or the news. But not having the ability to do so challenges us to engage with the people surrounding us. My mentor in particular will try and make small talk with the patron next to him, an increasingly lost art, he says. Will our generation and the more technologically connected generation be aware of the need to disconnect? It’s too soon to tell, but I hope so.
Still A Place For Youth & Technology
I’m not saying we should have our children use a stone tablet to communicate during the formative years of their life, because I do see the counter-side of the argument: the future generation MUST be technologically savvy in order to succeed. I’ve been told that “Typing Classes” will soon be obsolete because learning to “Type” on a computer will be as ingrained in a child’s development as tying your shoe or learning to walk. By completely preventing our children from interacting with technology at a young age, we are setting them back from properly developing the tech skills to succeed in future society. The challenge lies in maintaining a balance and limiting the screen time use to an appropriate amount. What that appropriate amount is certainly not for me to dictate, but I do personally think keeping it down to under a couple of hours seems reasonable!
I hope I didn’t ruffle anyone’s feathers with this post, especially those of you with young children at home. It’s a topic that I’ve seen come up time and time again among friends and family and I wanted to share my thoughts on the matter!