Technology can be a wonderful thing. It allows us to connect with friends and family all over the world, learn new and exciting things that we normally would not have the luxury to do and it has also simplified and automated many of the things we do in life.
However, does that mean that we should consume technology as much as possible?
And for that matter, neither should kids.
I was born in 1982 and first got onto the internet around 1996. My family got a computer soon thereafter and for the final few y ears while I was in high school, we had a really nice computer (a Pentium 200) and access to the internet. It was great – I could download songs, search for websites and play computer games. However, I was also busy with sports, homework and school committees. So much so that I was awarded Athlete of the Year in grade 12, I won a scholarship for my involvement in extra curricular activities along with my excellent grades and I earned a large “W” which meant that I was involved in lots of sports and school groups throughout my 4 years at high school. Back then, the only mobile phones that we had plugged into the cigarette adapter in a car and came in a bag. We called them car or cellular phones. Nobody had a smart phone. Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Wikipedia, Snapchat, Google, and Pinterest didn’t exist. I read books, played sports, did homework, played board & card games, played outside and would go to bed sometimes listening to tapes on my Sony walkman (mp3 players didn’t exist either). Those were great times. If I wanted to see a friend, I would call them or go to their house or we would make plans during the day at school. People would honour their commitments. It was much tougher to back out of something last minute. I couldn’t drive but I could bike anywhere in 15 minutes.
After I graduated high school, I attended the University of Alberta for my first year of university in engineering and lived with my tech savvy cousins and uncle. I learned more in the 8 months living with them than I would have taking computer courses and having access to all the devices available. They taught me about technology by doing projects and giving me real hands on experience. I learned how to customize the kernel of a Linux installation, how to compress audio files to save space (since storage was more scarce back then), how to network computers, install an operating system, dual boot with Windows and Linux, build a website and much more. I’m doing fine in this digital world because I learned real world, hands on skills that I can apply to my everyday life.
Today we are seeing so many issues with relationships and communication because of the easy access to technology and the internet. And according to this recent study, “Parents Want Kids to Use Mobile Devices in Schools.” I find that very troubling because of everything I mentioned above. Plus, so much of our access to technology today isn’t about building skills – it’s about consuming and sharing content including videos, images, texts and blog posts. The majority of people aren’t creating a lot of the videos and blog posts that are being shared so they are doing more curating than creating. Does it actually benefit kids if they are able to send a Snap, a txt, a Vine or an image to a friend? How much of that action is, I’m sorry to say, but quite meaningless. What happened to kids picking up the phone and calling each other. Meeting up in person and having an active conversation with their friends. Want to see it happen? Remove technology from the equation (or at least limit its use).
This reminds me of the ending from The Truman Show where the show gets pulled off the air and everyone watching all of a sudden doesn’t know what to do – so they pick up a book, talk to their coworker, etc.
We have evolved this far without technology. We constantly worked to find better ways to communicate. But sometimes easier doesn’t mean better. Face to face communication is still the best way I believe. I think we should limit our kids access to technology. Let them use it for learning and skill development. But do kids need to have smart phones so they can send pics or snaps to their friends? I don’t think so. Steve Jobs, one of the most influential people in our lifetime when it comes to technology, limited how much his kids used technology. You were a very wise man Mr. Jobs.