2007 was the year when everything changed. The release of the first iPhone set in motion such significant technological progress that we couldn’t have possibly been ready. From maps to music to videos and work-life balance, we’ve all enjoyed the way that smart phones have seamlessly incorporated themselves into our lives.
We’ve integrated every innovation without really questioning the impact. Sure, there are media fasts and even apps that put you on a digital diet, but one thing not enough people seem to be worried about is the new generation of children who were born after 2007. Facebook just turned ten years old, and many of our children’s lives will have been documented online from the beginning.
Having kids of my own, I tend to contemplate this quite a bit, but this weekend, especially, I was struck by the level of priority we give technology. My family had a birthday celebration this weekend, and after dinner, we all sat around the living room to talk. The problem? Every person in the room, from the toddler to the adults, was on their cell phones and tablets. We didn’t play games, listen to music or create conversations without these things for inspiration. From placating a baby with our phones, to buying our children tablets to appease their boredom, every kid will forever have a childhood that constantly involves screens, and I have to question whether or not this is good.
I’m not trying to be doom and gloom about this. In many ways, technology is a great thing that encourages learning and opens communication. And it’s not too terribly different from a television or a video game.
Except that before 2007, you couldn’t easily carry your TV with you, and even if you could, it was a shared experience. Cell phones are highly portable and exclusive; if you’re on Facebook or playing Candy Crush, no one else in the room is part of that technological experience. Could this make our children socially awkward or unlikely to engage?
And what about playing outside using only imagination? Will this soon be a distant memory? Will our children only be entertained by what we give them rather than what they create? What kind of society will come from children lacking inventiveness? And what about reading and writing? Yes, our kids know more with technology, but are they better thinkers?
Recent research from AVG Technologies shows that by the age of 3-5, more children are able play a computer game (66 percent) or navigate a smartphone (47 percent) than tie their shoes (14 percent).
As a parent, and as a person, I have to wonder if this is okay. Technology is here to stay, and we’re all grateful for how much easier it’s made our lives, but it’s our job to contemplate the impact these devices are having on our future both in the personal and global level. Are we raising better citizens, workers, and family members or are we raising selfish, socially awkward, unimaginative ones?