I recently had an interesting conversation with a colleague, whilst grabbing a cup of tea. Now, I had the opportunity of meeting this colleague’s sons late last year, and they’re quite literally a pair of cuteness overload! They almost give off this teddy bear feel, where you want to just hug them and pinch their cheeks, although I didn’t do that – because that’s just awkward but also – as I do realise how old it makes me seem to just say that.
Back to the conversation, in South Africa soon the first school term will come to an end and I had highlighted this to my colleague, who then almost in exasperation said that the boys desperately want an xBox for the holidays, but that he doesn’t want to get it for them because he wants them to a bit more active and not stuck to the TV playing games.
That got me thinking, and I would like to bring a slightly different perspective to the kids and technology conversation.
The way I see it, there’s 4 types of people in the conversation, and to not stereotype, I will not assume these are specific age groups because I do think that these are not age specific, but more circumstantial and experiential.
1) The techno-no generation: these are the type who long for the good old days, who would do anything to still have a letter delivered by a pigeon because it really was the best times. They enjoy the simplicity of life before technology and quite literally, would be opposed to any advancement in the technology space, even if it drastically improves their life. We still love this type though, they speak of an innocent generation, a generation who knew and valued the concept of taking life one step at a time, living outside of a continuum of constant busyness. They knew how to slow down, something we don’t know how to do.
2) Then you get the type who had to learn to deal with technology, and even embrace it. I’ll call them the techno-ok-then type of people, who may have not necessarily grown up with technology, but aren’t completely opposed to it. This group is probably more common in 2017, they’re the ones who want to strike the balance, they want their kids to still know what it’s like to feel the grass between your toes and to touch the sand with your hands. They’ve also seen or been forced to see the progression and benefits of technology, and have adapted technology to their personal lives. Personally, this is probably every parent of a child/adolescent today.
3) Now comes the category I think I fit into, I’ll call these the screen-age adults. This group grew up with technology as a very integral part of their lives. This group (like me) may have very well been the balance which the group 2 parents wish to strike, you had the exposure of having a hysical childhood, playing outside, hop scotch, soccer in the streets, cricket day/night matches, playing out TV shows after they had finished on TV; but you also were able to keep up to date with the latest developments in technology. WE WERE THERE at the dawn of the cellphone, and it was a part of us and our childhood and teen years. WE WERE THERE when instant messaging and social networking were taking off, and we were the ones who were mass consumers of these forms of technology. WE WERE THERE when the Walkman was a big thing, and then when the iPod took the world by storm. WE WERE THERE as active participants in the progression of technology. And hey, we turned out pretty ok. Perhaps, group 2 isn’t so wrong for wanting the same for their kids. But here’s the thing, this group could possibly be the start of a generation who see no compelling reason for a balance, and that technology is not just necessary but it is great for kids. These adults will willingly allow kids to spend hours on their phones or tablets, and be ok with the fact that a Fitbit is more than sufficient to track physical activity and voila, see technology!! We had a balance and we came out ok, so what if there isn’t a balance, right?
Lastly 4) are the children of 2017 themselves and those to come beyond 2027. Given the rapid pace of technology, who knows the world these little ones will grow up in, These are probably never going to know anything outside of technology and are likely a product of group 3 or having been raised by parents of the group 3 dispensation. These kids will find technology as a norm, they will be strong advocates for nothing less.
I think that groups 1 and 2 are slowly completing their cycles, but what is interesting for me is groups 3 and 4… what is parenting going to look like for you and I, and for children being raised in a totally digital age. I already know babies who can operate an iPad without actually much effort. It will be very interesting to see how these years play out. It would also be interesting to see how group 3 brings up their children where technology is concerned, whether they would want to seek a balance for the group 4 or not…