The iGeneration

by Lori Dwyer on December 19, 2011 · 10 comments

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?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

lap desk February 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm

It's good to know that you equipped your laptop with these accessories most especially the cooling pad. It will surely make your browsing and working experience worry free and heat free. Cooling pad can also be used a laptop desk.


Rhonda December 20, 2011 at 8:41 am

I agree with Bron…it's all in the balance. My son has a laptop, iPod, cell phone, Xbox with wi-fi and a television in his room. But he's got a time limit on them. And he's pretty good about not pushing it with them either.


Melissa December 19, 2011 at 11:14 pm

My 9yo daughter knows how to text better than her 14yo brother (who only just got his first mobile). And her favourite game at the moment? Trying to crack the code to unlock my Galaxy! (She usually gets it too, little bugger)


Melissa December 19, 2011 at 10:21 pm

I wrestle with this, too Lori. I've kept technology away from my two so far – except for a few TV shows. It makes me nervous to expose them so young – they soak up everything so easily, but I completely agree with you that they will need to be even more computer literate than ever to keep up with their peers in school and in their careers. Ugh. Parenting…


Anonymous December 19, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Must make you wonder what things your grandchildren will be mastering one day, Lori?
We've been doing the charity gifting for a couple of years now and have amassed quite a lot of goodies. A birthing kit, a long-drop loo, a literacy kit, school supplies, numerous goats, chickens and other livestock just to mention a few.
I have even converted my boss to it (for my gift at least),
He is a generous man but I was getting tired of re-gifting all the stuff in the over-the-top hampers he would give us. So last year i asked if i could nominate a charity each year. He wins 'cause there's no shopping involved and the donation is tax deductible, I win 'cause I don't have hundreds of weird and wonderful 'delicacies' to get rid of and the charity wins big time!
Mrs. C


Maxabella December 19, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I embrace all that technology has to offer for my children. And then I time them and send them outside. Boring old balance, as usual. Balance. Who'da thought that it would become the most overused word in the universe after 'apple'?



Miss Pink December 19, 2011 at 10:20 am

I have felt the same way. I refuse to budge on the fact that I feel learning how to do things manually, like write before type, and doing maths on paper or in your head vs. on a calculator should be taught first, but I do understand that our children need to know how to use computers.

I will point out that in kindergarten their computer usage is very minimal. Bluey does an online mathematics program once a week, and they do typing once a week. I feel THAT is all the children need to know at that stage. They don't need to be taught how to surf the net yet, and they certainly don't need a facebook account!

Greenie can flick through the photo's on my blackberry, and loves it, but I don't rely on my phone to be enterainment for them. I will probably download a couple of apps for the kids, age appropriate, but I won't be throwing my phone at them often. I am happy for them to know the basics, like how to find my parents or Mr Blacks number in case of an emergency (they understand 000 and Bluey knows my parents number by heart), Bluey has also written text messages to my sister and one of his best friends mother on occasion because I am aware that like it or not, it's a skill he is going to use in his life. Again this isn't every day, it's an occasional thing.

Like you said, I think it's ok they learn this stuff, but not at the cost of physical play and being outdoors, getting dirty, and using their mind away from technology. As long as parents are aware of that and encourage all the other ways in which a child can learn and play then using this stuff will only increase their knowledge and skills.


Library girl December 19, 2011 at 8:48 am

It's a mother thing, I think. My teenage boys are the same. I feel an incredible happiness every time they go outside (even if it is to pegg water balloons at each other in an attempt to maim!).If it makes you feel any better, my boys did alot of TV/computer when Sidekick and I were doing the whole 'silent fighting' in the bedroom for 18 months before we split. They survived. You do what you can to get by!


Toni December 19, 2011 at 10:44 am

I recently read a book on brain development, and my concerns for iGen kids have multiplied.
My worry is that we (not only kids) are losing abilities that we actually still need.
We use different brain pathways to write by hand than we do to type, for example. Playing games on the computer uses different skills from playing board games.
The skills and pathways we don't use get lost.

Everything we access by electronic means happens immediately, and we're losing the ability to focus on a long-term goal with few rewards along the way.
That's one of the reasons why I signed my kids up for karate, because the harder you work, the harder it gets!

I would be utterly lost without my computer, I totally love the on-line world — but I'm making a huge effort this coming year to get us off-line and Real Lifing more.


Nicole December 19, 2011 at 10:33 am

Exactly what LibraryGirl said above – it's definitely a mother thing. & like her, I absolutely love the {small} times MissA will venture outside for play.

It's too few & far between 'these days' {gee, why is it using that term always seems so old skool?!). I miss the days when anything was fun outside – could kick the ball, or play in the sandpit for ages..


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