“Archibald Bartholomew Griffith the Third! Put down that infernal book right now, it will rot your brain!” Undoubtedly, a concerned mother in the 1400s said something along those lines when faced with the rapid technological change and the avalanche of knowledge unleashed by the invention of the movable type. Damn you, Gutenberg! So how have things changed?
The above are only three examples of blog headlines I found that frantically warn parents of the “dangers” of technology. When I was a kid, cartoons and video games were the brain-stealing villains. Now parents must stand on guard against iPhones and Angry Birds out to steal their children’s brains.
Technology, like everything in life, has positives and negatives. As parents, it is our job to teach responsible use and balance, not to instil fear. How many kids that played Super Mario Bros. in the 80s grew up to found a million dollar tech startup? How many Saved By the Bell addicts are now writing scripts in Hollywood? How many Looney Tunes aficionados became serial killers? Technology, like sports, arts, literature, and any other pursuit, is just a means to an end. It's a fact of life for anyone who lives in a modern society. As technology marches forward, our quality of life is dramatically improving. Coincidence? No matter how may times talk show experts try to scare parents into thinking otherwise, there has been no scientific link established between video games and violence. In fact, considering modern career trends, being not only functional, but creative in the use of technology is a significant advantage for kids. Someone has to pilot and maintain all those drones. Technology is no different than any other inanimate object—books, dolls, TV—if you let it raise your kids, there will be issues. So what should the rules for technology be? It's actually quite simple:
I like to consider myself a pretty good parent, yet one of my eldest daughter’s first words was “iPad.” Call the CAS. As a parent, I’ve always felt that my main responsibility is to prepare my girls for the world they will one day navigate on their own. How can I do that without helping them become not only technologically literate, but hacker savants? My girls aren’t in school yet, but I firmly believe I’d rather have them learn how to code over learning cursive. Of course if you saw my handwriting, my cursive bias would make a lot more sense, but the point is that we owe it to our kids to think of the world they will inherit, not the one we did. There is nothing inherently better about the past, just as there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the future. Both represent the state of the world as it is, or was, or will be, at the time (I just confused myself). Sure, we had handmade furniture in the 19th Century, but we also had scurvy. Are you saying you want my kid to have scurvy?
I read two books, yes dead-tree books, to my kids every night, but I also let them play their ABC game on the iPad after dinner. My daughter will occasionally touch the TV screen wondering why she can’t make things move with just her finger. That’s 20th Century technology for you; however, we also regularly take family walks outside!
For me, technology doesn’t require any specific rules, just the same common sense ones smart parents apply to any situation. Besides, if I don’t teach my kids to love technology, who is going to be my tech support when I’m 65 and my holo-replicator breaks down? That sushi-flavoured slurry isn’t going to replicate itself. Or will it?
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