Sunday, June 12, 2011

Newspaper column

If this is the technological age, it certainly isn’t bypassing the young.

My 3-year-old knows how to use an iPhone better than I do, she watches YouTube videos of Elmo on our TV and can listen to her favorite songs in the car upon request thanks to our vehicle’s MP3 dock.

When I compare it to my own childhood and the fact that I didn’t have access to a computer until sixth grade, it’s astounding. I remember my class being broken into groups to visit the school’s lone computer lab once a week. Huddled around a handful of monstrous machines, we learned how to turn them on, what the mouse was and how to peck out glowing green letters on a black screen.

My daughter will likely be tapping out texts at warp speed on her phone’s virtual keyboard by the time she’s the same age.

I guess what scares me is that her generation doesn’t have to wait for anything. Music, movies, television, photos and games are accessible from anywhere with a WiFi connection. I can’t tell her “Your show isn’t on right now, go play” because she knows all I have to do is fire up the DVR and select any episode her little heart desires.

I can’t even take a picture without her asking to see it on my camera’s viewfinder. Forget having to wait until the roll of film is finished, not to mention getting the photos developed. Everything in her world happens immediately.

As a parent, the concept of perpetual instant gratification is very scary. I want my children to learn the virtue of patience and perhaps even the old adage that the best things in life are worth the wait.

That said, it’s not always easy knowing where to draw the line. A large part of me wants to ban the iPhone from ever entering her little hands, but when we’re doing something mundane like shopping for a new dishwasher, I know I can hand it to her and she’ll be content, well-behaved and close by for the duration — as opposed to interrupting and running around when her patience understandably wears thin.

The small glimmer of justification I fall back on is that the games geared toward her age group are educational. Dora asks her to count before doing a little dance, a monkey rewards her with a sticker after she puts a puzzle together, and coloring pages test her eye-hand coordination. Plus, she’ll likely need intense computer skills just to keep up in school, let alone the job market when she’s older.

At the very least, it’s nice to know I’m not alone. I see toddlers everywhere using their parent’s smart phones — at the grocery store, restaurants, even at church. So I’m sure those parents have to strike a balance with other electronic devices at home, too.

Part of me wonders if each generation experiences the same concerns and fears. My mom remembers not owning a color television. She probably struggled with allowing me to surf the net without supervision when I was in high school.

I guess when I really think about it, there are a few things that don’t happen instantly at our house. My daughter’s favorite grilled cheese sandwiches don’t pop out of thin air, we can’t go outside until her toys are put away, and the water park most certainly isn’t going to happen in December — no matter how much she begs.

Technology isn’t going to change that. Well, not for her generation anyway.


Anonymous said...

It's funny--the dividing line of progress for you and your daughter is the Iphone. That moment of recognition for me and my daughter was the microwave. For my generation the microwave was extraordinary. Heat leftovers in seconds and it tastes just made. Popcorn in minutes without a greasy skillet on the stove to wash. It was breathlessly fast, convenient and amazing. My daughter, of course grew up with one. She wanted a snack one day and I told her to pop something or other in the microwave. She whined "that takes too long." I just stood there for a minute, stunned. That moment of recognizing that what for me was a cutting edge invention was for her just old hat. And SLOW. If she only knew what it was like in the "good old days."

So happy to see a new post. Hope you and yours are well.


The Plainsman said...

First thought is positive, that someone so young is so comfortable in using the iPhone that in an emergency she will be able to reach the needed services. Especially where things have been known to burst into flame in the toaster oven, tires shred, people fall down stairs, basements flood....(Actually, that pretty much applies to most of us, lol!)

But the most interesting thoughts are not only of the impact of the expectation of instant gratification, but whether our parents concerns about the negative impacts of whatever new technology suddenly surrounded them and their kids is similar to what many of us feel today. I think so.

There is no question that a
21st Century human will be very different from a 19th or 20th Century one in many ways, but no doubt that they, their reactions and emotions will still be very human, and recognizably and comfortingly so.

Feeling a bit like a 20th Century Buck Rogers in the 25th Century now.

hubina said...

a friend of mine on FB was asking for iPhone apps for her kids - for a second there I thought her 3 year old twins had iPhones of their own (silly me!) but I completely understand wanting some way to occupy their time, so you can have some of your own..

instant gratification will always exist. microwaves were once a hot commodity.. fast food restaurants can't even be fast enough anymore.. I mean, geeze, commercials are a MAJOR nuisance these days..