My kids have grown up in what some call “The Connected Generation”. From their LeapFrog toys as toddlers to their iPod Touches, Kindle Fires, and laptops - they’ve always had electronics in their life. That’s both good and bad, and while some parents might disagree, I think the good of all this technology outweighs the bad.
There are certainly downsides to spending lots of time in front of an electronic gizmo. It’s been said that kids develop a short attention span, lose social skills, and can lose touch with reality – along with that human interaction that they don’t have when using electronics. But there are advantages as well. Growing up with computers and i-thingys makes kids comfortable with technology, something they’ll need to use all their lives. I know how long it took my wife to learn how to use her smartphone, while my kids figured it out in minutes.
I see the influence of technology in different ways with my three sons. The older ones use the computer and tablets to do much of the work I used to do in the library, and a whole lot faster than I could have done with the card catalog and Encyclopedia Britannica (my reference book of choice). My youngest son has decided he loves all things having to do with movies, and he’s seen dozens of films in the last year, taking the time to read about the films and actors on websites. Sometimes when I hear his 12-year-old voice talking about a director’s style or how an actor got cast for a role, I think I’m sitting with a young Roger Ebert.
Having all these electronics hasn’t kept the boys away from reading, although they don’t touch physical books as often as they used to. They read some books for recreation, although most are for school. But even some of their textbooks are kept in plastic and metal boxes, not the well-worn bindings that used to be the standard. Honestly, I’m just glad they’re using their devices to read instead of always trying to whack space invaders; so, electronic book consumption is just fine with me.
Some parents are afraid of the arrival of technology and “i-devices” in their children’s lives, and there’s good reason for that. But I think parents need to be involved in how the ubiquitous devices get used. Kids need to learn that the same box they use to play games, watch videos, and listen to music can provide education, information, and inspiration that will stay with them long after the batteries have worn out and the technology has become obsolete.