She already is more interested in her IPhone (an old cast off first generation one not fully functioning anymore) than any other toy she has. At one year old she knows how to turn it on and how to unlock it and slide the screen to change pictures or applications. The first time I saw her begin to demonstrate these skills she was only about ten months old! She is especially captivated by pictures and movies of herself. Now at her first birthday party she sits pleasantly enjoying her new little beach chair on her iphone. What will communicating be like for these children raised on this technology? I am not an all doom and gloom kind of gal. So I do not see this as the end of authentic human relationships or the complete demise of genuine social networking. But I do wonder how the dominance of it--music, movies, texts, email, googling-- will impact the way people relate.
Because of the ready availability of the camera on the smart phone a person can take pictures and videos anytime, and decent ones. Yet, this immediate availability of recording significant life events and moments means that we are in some sense once removed from the event and moment itself. Recording it and watching it later is never quite the same as actually being there and experiencing it. I frequently have to tell myself to put down the camera and just enjoy. It is hard. Because there are so many new ways to share these moments with others who cannot be there. And because I am a writer and a communicator I know that there will be numerous occasions to use these captured moments for wider communication, and in my case, ministry. Case in point—this picture of my granddaughter on her first birthday in her new little chair looking at her IPhone!
Here’s what I think we will need to do to help mitigate the potential negative consequences of this preoccupation with technical communication.
First, set boundaries for our children. Like has been done with the use of computers and video games, time limits should be set for children using these devices.
Second, create real life interactive opportunities for your children. It is not very compelling to lure them away from an interactive multi-media screen to read a book. But if you build a relationship with your child or grandchild by reading books together using props and animated voices (it does not require an acting degree to do this, just love and risk) they just may choose reading a book with you over their video screen.
Third, ahead of time prepare activities that are interactive and tactile—plant a flower together, finger paint and then go to the store to pick out a mat and frame and find a place on the wall to hang it.
Fourth, take a walk, for goodness sake, and a simple scavenger hunt can make it quite inviting for a child!
Finally, as was the case with computer and video game technology, do not leave your children to interact with technology alone. Play games with them. Look at pictures and movies with them. Plan together to write an email, or make a phone call to a loved one. Be a part of their social networking and technological communication.
I will continue to love and hate this technology. I can choose to be intentional and creative about how it is a part of my life and the lives of those I have influence over. Just got a text with a movie attached of my granddaughter chasing a cat around the courtyard by her house. She is leaving for three weeks on a trip with her parents. This IS time critical. I will catch you later.