Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Tech Generation

“I am not as young as I look, in fact I am a lot closer to 40 then I care to admit,” I recently said, while realizing I was beginning to sound like my mother. This was in the midst of a discussion with my mom’s group about how technological advances are impacting the lives of our children.  Over the course of this discussion I realized there is a wide range of views on this subject.

The average American child receives their first cell phone at 11.6 years old.  Of 12 to 17 year olds, 75% now own a cell phone.  I find this shocking.  I have always said my kids will not have cell phones until they have a driver’s license and are holding down a job.  Owning a cell phone is not just an expensive proposition, but a responsibility. With so many kids now having cell phones, I wonder if I will be holding my kids back by denying them this technology. 

Discussions in regard to technology and our children leave me with a lot of questions and concerns that go beyond cell phone ownership.  My worries range from the practical to the philosophical.  I am not sure I can keep up with all the changes and expense. I am not even sure it is worth it to try.  I am concerned about the loss of life skills due to the influence of technology.  Making friends, writing and grammar, problem solving, and cognitive thought are all life skills I feel are vital for children to learn.

One important life skill that seems to be on the decline is the art of making friends.  I hope my kids understand the difference between a true friend and an acquaintance.  Having 300+ “friends” on Facebook does not mean you have 300 real friends. A true friend is one who gives you a hug when you need it, can pick you up when you are down, lends you a glove at a bus stop when you are both freezing.  They are not just a person you shared a laugh with in passing and may never see again. 

I fear that children are failing to develop good interpersonal communication skills together with proficient writing and grammar.  It seems that texting shorthand may become the norm for the written word.  I may be old fashioned on this one, but I don’t feel texting shorthand should be used in school work or professional communication.   Writing is an art and every child should have the opportunity to practice it.  Maybe this is a generational thing (I fear what I don’t understand).   

Children are increasingly dependent on technology for entertainment and finding their way.  We rely on navigation systems to get to places in our own community.  I feel it is important to teach our children to read a map and learn how to get around their community.  The idea that we need a battery powered object to find our way home frightens me.  I have had conversations with several friends/acquaintances where they have told me they got lost because their GPS gave them incorrect directions, or the battery died.  If only they had a good old map, or even better, knew how to get around their neighborhood. The same goes for the constant need to be “plugged-in” and entertained with gadgets like personal DVD Players, gaming systems, and smart phones.   Kids can spend an hour without digital entertainment.  I heard a rumor that children are not going to be required to learn basic math in school any more since they now have calculators at their fingertips.  A similar discussion was presented about cursive and penmanship no longer necessary because of digital media.  These are skills I am not ready to throw out the window.

I plan to stand my ground and not let technology interfere with my family life.  No cell phone.  I’ll put that money in the college fund and my kids will have few more years of a carefree life where they don’t need to lug a bunch of stuff around everywhere they go.  I hope not being constantly “plugged-in” does not hold my children back.  I may change my tune in a few years, but I promise we will not be the family in the campsite next to yours playing video games and watching movies all night. Your kids will have a phone just in case mine need to call home, right? 

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