Friday, February 12, 2010

The ups and downs of technology

Can we talk about technology for a minute? Our kids are INUNDATED by technology on a daily basis - Julia knows about stuff that didn't even exist when I was a child, and her experience with the world and with media is so different than mine was. Julia has no idea what commercials are but she doesn't like them. She calls them 'channels' and has only watched them twice in her life despite watching a 30 minute TV show every day, once during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and once during the Superbowl. All the television she watches is prerecorded on our DVR. We just set it to record 'Dinosaur Train' or 'Superwhy', and it automatically records all the episodes as they come on.

While those are public television shows and PBS doesn't air commercials, prior to the Superbowl I think it had been the better part of a year since I had watched commercials. We just fast-forward through them. In fact, even if we aren't busy, we wait for our shows to start and get going so we can fast forward through the commercials. The additional nice thing about having a DVR is there are no power struggles with the TV. When the show is over, a blue screen comes on and asks if you want to save or delete the show. DONE. Julia even turns the TV off herself, no questions asked. That certainly wouldn't be the case if there were an ad for the next show coming up.

Talk about instant gratification - she has known since she was younger than two that the world is at her fingertips... she just has to google it - a term she also knows about. In fact, at this point when she wants us to help her find something on the computer, she actually dictates the search she wants us to plug into the search engine when we go to google. I remember when she was about 18 months, she wanted to see a gorilla film. About 30 seconds later, we were on youtube, and she was watching a film about gorillas in the Rwandan jungle, complete with accompanying music.

About 3 weeks ago, I opened Pandora's box and introduced her to In three weeks, the child has learned to navigate the computer, move around a website, double click, drag and drop, open programs and find files. My parents can barely open their email, and my four year-old daughter can open photo booth and take a picture of herself.

Julia has her own email address (inspired by her friend in LA who has HER own email address and sent Julia an email. You never know when is going to be taken! Have to make sure to preserve it for her! - and FYI, I know that is crazy.) J has an old cell phone of ours and knows how to take pictures. She has her own kids' digital camera and can use all the functions of it. It's amazing to watch her navigate this technological world without a moment's anxiety - she views it as a source of entertainment rather than something to fear.

I do wonder how this technology is going to impact this generation of kids - the generation of instant gratification kids who can access the world and view whatever it is they have a hunkering to see (Mary Poppins, gorillas, parrots, etc.) RIGHT NOW. What will research be like when they get older? Will they appreciate the process rather than just the end product? Only time will tell. For now, however, after last night's massive temper tantrum when it was time to get off the computer, I have to figure out how to put my computer on a timer as well...

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