Today, kids have it easy. All the technology that we only dreamed about is at their fingertips. They can watch almost any television show they want at the press of a button, they get music on devices that don’t ruin tapes or CDs, and computers are in every household. Now, I am 27 years old, and some people would still consider me a child, I’m sure. However, I grew up in a time when computers were still something you did not find in every home. These days, they are everywhere. I can remember the first time I encoded a song into an Mp3 file and then trying to explain to my parents why this was cool. I can tell you what it was like to install Linux without all the niceties we have for performing that same task.
Does all the technology really help our children or is it just dumbing them down more with each passing advance? It seems that children read less, no longer play outside, and talk like they are constantly in a chat room. The advent of cellular telephones has not helped that last one at all. Children today have iPods, cell phones, and MySpace accounts. Gone are the days of vocal conversation. Instead we get text messages, instant messages, and emails. Remember when you would talk to your boy/girlfriend for hours on the telephone, well into the wee hours of the night hoping that your parents would not hear you thus ending your conversation? Parents instead are trying to find a way to keep their kids off the computer after 10pm.
My 4 year old daughter has an iPod. Granted, it is a 512MB shuffle that I used to use when going to gym, but it is an iPod none-the-less. She loves the thing and gets upset when it is time for a recharge. My wife and I love it for the simple fact we are not subjected to hours of repeated Veggitales songs on our stereo or computer speakers. However, I find myself thinking about what kind of environment I am creating for my daughter. I know that when she has those earphones in her ears, she is pretty much out of contact with me and her mother. She walks around the house earphones in and singing the songs at the top of her little lungs. Part of me is proud (I am a singer at heart and musician in that I play guitar as has having been in a couple of bands) that she enjoys music so much, but do I really want to create the idea that socially cutting yourself off is acceptable behavior on such a regular basis? I mean, I understand that there are times when cutting one’s self off socially is not only okay but necessary, however I do not believe it is okay for people to walk around with headphones in their ears, ignoring the world around them. To counter this, my wife and I do not allow our daughter to listen to her iPod all the time and actually cut her off if we feel she is listening to it too much and explain to her why we are doing it.
Is this kind of action enough? Will this help our daughter understand the concept of “everything in moderation” or will it just cause her to want that iPod more while finding ways to listen to it without us knowing? What about the toddlers with fully functioning computers in their bedrooms? Are we teaching our children anti-social behavior so early on or is the use of a computer at such a young age so helpful that the consequences are out-weighed by the results?
Are there things that some of you do with your children (if you have any) to allow them to familiarize themselves with technology but also keep them social and from locking themselves indoors? Leave a comment, I am really interested in seeing others opinions on this issue.