What will our children tweet?

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.

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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.

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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!

10 comments

  1. Great post! I think this is a super complicated issue, but I agree with you on a lot of fronts. I personally need to be on my phone and computer all the time for both work and my side-business, and I actually hate that part about it. But this is where we’re at. Society is online all the time, and people fall behind if they aren’t (like my brother, as I mentioned in my first post -https://isys6621.com/2017/01/31/everything-the-light-touches-the-social-media-kingdom/).

    My sister has three kids and the oldest just turned 7. My sister always talks about how he takes her phone and ipad and he’s able to log in, download apps, and play games. It makes her nervous, but it’s also what all of the other kids his age are doing. If he doesn’t keep up with technology as his peers do, he’ll fall behind. I think there has to be a balance between use of technology and quality social interaction.

  2. It is a difficult issue to decide where I fall on. I see a world that is becoming increasingly technology enabled. So much so that I believe our children will be using types of augmented and mixed reality everyday. This means that they will have a virtual/online presence that is likely a scanned image of them. They will be able to have virtual playdates and maybe even able to go to an international school without ever having to leave the house. On the other hand, I see so many challenges these technologies will have on adolescent mental health. When conversation begins shifting mediums, where do our communication skill so from there? I am not sure yet, but will have to keep that question in mind going forward.

  3. I enjoyed reading your post, and this is definitely a tough topic. I think that limiting the number of hours would be a good start, but it is also important to monitor what children are doing on their iPad or phones in this time frame. I believe that when it is time to socialize with others, it would be wise to strictly limit the use of kids using technology, and perhaps in other times to be less strict. Tech skills are important to develop, the question is whether to postpone these in a few years would be that crucial for children at a very young age. I don’t have kids, and so again it is a tough decision to call, but a balance between the two seems appropriate to me.

  4. Great post, and interesting topic to choose! I agree that the issue is really sensitive, and I think your post was very respectful of that. As someone who has babysat and nannied for countless hours, it’s always interesting to see different family’s stances on social media. There are some that don’t limit TV and phone use whatsoever, and others that restrict it to weekends or specific hours. I’ve found that for those who restrict use, the children cannot watch TV or play an iPad game and hold a conversation. They become so obsessed with the small amount of time they have, they can’t answer a yes/no question or do anything else. I’m not sure what stance I would have as a parent, but I have only really seen negative effects in my experience babysitting when you limit use too much.

  5. Great post which poses a lot of questions! It is hard to fully pick one side on this because this is just the nature of technology and where it is going. Kids are getting technology at a younger age and it is becoming the norm. It does make me sad to think that when I was in grade school I used to go outside and play kickball after school or color at a restaurant but now kids just play games on their iPad and avoid all human interaction. On the other, I can see where parents are coming because after babysitting for many years I would be happy for a 30 minute break by turning the TV on. I still wonder at what age my child will get their first cellphone…i had mine at 13 but there are kids now getting them at age 5.

  6. This blog post is one of my favorites from the entire semester. I think some of the issues you touched on are very complex, and I appreciated how you took a respectful approach to analyzing the topic. Many of us have no idea what its like to be a parent, but I totally see some of the issues you pointed out. Society has made a huge shift towards being more social, and I think even the youngest generations have been a part of this change. I think children will be using technology more than ever when they are our age, so in a way, an early start may be beneficial. If used the right way, technology can be fundamental to a child’s growth. However, I do fear too many children rely on technology. On my flight back to BC from break, there was a four or five year old sitting in front of me crying. The mom gave the child a few toys and the young girl just cried even louder. Finally, the mom gave the child an Ipad and she immediately stopped crying. She then unlocked the screen, browsed through the apps, and selected a game to play. She then adjusted the brightness and orientation layout so she could play a game holding the Ipad sideways! It made me think deeply about what the children of today will be involved in online in years to come.

  7. My FAVORITE part of teaching this class is hearing current college students worry about the effect of technology on the next generation with so little awareness of how much you have been affected by technology, how unique your upbringing was, or how the previous generation said the same things about you. Can’t wait to be hearing the same thing in 10 years from the currently elementary students!

  8. Great post! It definitely seems like it can be difficult to balance how much youths use technology now. After all, our society has seemed to evolve in such a manner that having a smartphone is sometimes pretty much an essential good, and so it is even more important that we are able to balance the benefits with the drawbacks, some of which you mentioned.

  9. I think this is a very important topic to discuss because as technology changes so does its effect on our daily lives. I think that technology within education is a good thing in that children can learn how to become tech savvy and apply those skills to other topics. For example if a young student were to learn how to make an excel chart or put together a good PowerPoint presentation before graduating middle school, he or she would be at an advantage (or maybe that will just become standard). The biggest area where I find technology to overstep is in our personal interactions. Your anecdote about the young boy and dad at dinner is something I see all the time and it makes me sad to think that conversation without technology present is rare. I see it even with our generation at dinner. There aren’t many times where you go through an entire dinner without someone checking a text, social media update, or the news. I think you bring up a very important discussion and something that we will definitely need to consider, especially as we set the example for the younger generations.

  10. This was one of the best posts that I’ve read so far this semester, so thank you. While I can’t say I’ve thought about how future generations will use technology, I can certainly say that I’ve noticed everything that you’ve mentioned in this post as well. I’m the youngest in my family by about 8 years so at 22, I have siblings who grew up with less technology than I did and you can certainly tell the difference between some of their interactions and my own. For example, my oldest sister turns her phone off at night and I use my phone as an alarm to wake me up. That being said, I still didn’t have my first phone (a flip phone) until I was 13. I’ve watched my little cousins grow up in the 2000s and now I’ve started to see my older cousins’ kids growing up as well – technology consumes them. At family events, they constantly ask if they could borrow our phones so that they could play games or they take out their families iPad from their mother’s purse. During the Summer, I remember playing wiffleball and riding bikes around with all of my friends. One of my cousins is extremely outdoorsy and loves to fish, but the entire time he’s fishing he’s snapchatting or instagramming. While there are definitely perks of technology, the stranglehold it is taking and could continue to take on young kids is terrifying.

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