At the risk of sounding like my grandfather, I have to say that I have genuine concerns about the next generation. I’m worried about the impact of constant connectivity on impressionable young minds.
Don’t get me wrong; I see the value in modern technology. Whereas I had to spend hours in a library with access to limited information every time I had a report due at school, my children have instant access to page after page of study material via the internet. Technology has played a part in making the world seem like a smaller, more accessible place and I can’t help but appreciate that aspect of its influence. We all know, though, that there can be too much of a good thing.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to deliver my college-age daughter to Walt Disney World for an internship program. While we were there, we dined in a restaurant at a table next to a woman and a boy who seemed to be somewhere between eight and 10 years old. My guess is that it was a mother dining with her son. Here’s the troubling part: throughout the course of the hour-long meal, the boy’s eyes and attention were focused on a tablet screen the whole time. With the exception of lunch orders and drink refill requests being voiced to the server, I don’t recall so much as three sentences being exchanged at that table. I found it to be sad, and somewhat disturbing.
On “The Today Show” this morning, I heard just a short blurb about how voicemail messages are becoming obsolete. They were reporting that with the popularity of texting, people are less and less likely to leave or listen to voicemail messages. It’s not a surprising trend, really; I prefer texts over voicemail, too. But I think most of us would agree that there are certain things that should not be said over text—or voicemail for that matter. I’m concerned that today’s teens and tweens don’t appreciate those boundaries. Within the past three months, my two teen daughters have texted me some things I feel warrant a phone call, at the very least. My oldest daughter texted me when she totaled her car. And my 16-year-old told me via text that one of her friends had committed suicide.
The problem—I believe— is a grand one, but like most widespread problems, I think the solution starts at home. We can’t keep our children from technology, but we can certainly do our best to combat the negative aspects of it. We can do so by responding appropriately to inappropriate behaviors. When my daughter texted me about her car, for instance, I picked up the phone. My husband and I don’t bring our phones (or any other devices) to the table. I engage my kids in conversation when we’re in the car together, rather than allow them to zone out on mobile Twitter. I won’t say that I’m immune to all of this; I definitely have a weakness for my iPhone. But when I consider how important an example I’m setting, it makes it a bit easier to unplug.