The speed with which young children learn to drive iPhones, iPads, iPods… it’s terrifying. With no direction, and certainly no encouragement- my iPhone has been off limits most of the time I’ve had it- my just-turned-four year old Chop knows how to find the music and the games he likes, and has figured out how to play almost all of them.
And- again, terrifying- that is not all he knows how to technically manipulate. Turning on and finding the right channel on the TV is no problem. He can actually show anyone who cares to watch how to plug in a DVD player and tune it to the TV. Not to mention use his CD player and mp3 player (yes, he has his own).
I got myself an iPad for Christmas. Well, technically it was for me. In order to not get cranky and frustrated, I’ve begun to think of more as a ‘family present’. I remember having to stretch my mind a little bit to get it around the whole concept of apps and iStuff when I first got my iPhone. The Chop has had no such difficulties. Before the iPad was even out of it’s box, the Chop had chosen his first app, courtesy of an ad on (government funded) TV. There’s certainly nothing new- at least not in the last fifty years- about the basic principle of children being swayed by advertising. What I found pretty damn amazing was the way he connected us having an iPad to a random ad on TV for an app for an iPad. It’s not a concept that needed explaining to him- the level of assumed knowledge kids today have in the sphere of technology is phenomenal.
I’m a massive gadget geek- we know that already. I own a Kindle; iPhone with GPS and a bluetooth headset; mp3 player and dock; a laptop equipped with a webcam, cooling pad and wireless carpet mouse; a flip cam; a digital camera; and I recently relinquished my desktop computer after realizing I hadn’t switched it on for six months. While I try to live sustainably and without a lot of waste, gadgets are something I never regret spending my money on. Even my toothbrush is electric and equipped with WiFi- I’m not even joking. Is it any wonder my kids are so computer literate?
I didn’t graduate to ‘geek’ until I started studying at university, way back in the year 2000. The very first time I used the Internet was to choose my timetable for the approaching semester. We had a vending machine in the computer lab that sold disks. Not CD’s, actual disks. I don’t remember having much electronic stuff as a kid, nor needing it. As I got older we had an Atari, a Sega (Alex the Kidd, anyone? I will whoop your arse.) and a computer, but a lot of those purchases were my dad’s influence- evidently, he’s a gadget geek too.
These days, children begin using computers in kindergarten, and some much earlier, depending on if and where they do their preliminary education. I remember being disturbed and a bit disgusted when I first saw this YouTube clip of a one year old confounded by a paper magazine that doesn’t work like an iPad. Then I witnessed the frustration of my own daughter, two years old, trying desperately to work my Kindle by swiping the screen- my Kindle isn’t a touch screen.
There is a mum within me who is old fashioned and doesn’t want her kids exposed to computers and more screen time than they need any earlier than necessary. And, I must admit, part of that mothers problem is my own insecurity- my children spend too much time in front of the TV already, especially my son, especially the last year or so, while I try to keep my head above water and not let my emotions drown me. That mother in me, she feels guilty.
The more liberal and less-tortured mother within tells me that fighting this is going to be an uphill, losing battle; and it may be counter productive. The world we live in dictates a need to be technically skilled; and computer and gadget literate. I guess the key to it- within an obesity epidemic among developed countries- is a bit of moderation. Encouraging kids to get outside as well online, into the great outdoors as well as the information super highway.
And not be too pessimistic. If knowing how to drive an iPhone, access the App store and find Angry Birds is the biggest sin inflicted on my children by technological so far… I think we’re doing OK. At least he doesn’t know my password, so he can’t run up my credit card bill. Yet.
In comparison to the children of our iGeneration who have everything… there are too many children in the world who have nothing. If you happen to still be doing your last minute Christmas shopping, the UNHCR World’s Biggest Package website is the perfect place to find last minute gifts that mean something.
Rather than spending $27 on one of those beauty sets with talc/body cream/shower gel that the destined recipient will re-gift the following year, spend your $27 on malaria treatments for fifteen kids in Nakivale. UNHCR will email a gift card to the person you bought it for, and everyone will feel better for it. There’s a lot to be said for contributing to the health of the world, rather than just filling everyone’s home with more stuff this Christmas. Surely, we all have all the stuff we need already?