Monday, February 10, 2014

Kids And Connectivity

I got talking with some friends in Singapore the other about kids these days, their devices and their constant connectivity.

I don't know how well you know Singapore but every time I visit I'm struck by the total immersment in smart phones across just about every age group. Get on the MRT and you'll see teenagers, young adults and also old people with their eyes glued to the screen and virtual keyboard of their smartphone, more often than not playing a game of some sort.

Here in England, we tend to see kids glued to their phones, but it's far less the case with adults and old people, who are sometimes considered adults also.

Last week I was out for dinner with C and there was a table of five adults behind us. At one point I glanced up from my phone and looked at these people to see that two of them were playing games on their phones. Whilst out at dinner in a restaurant. I tell you!

But I digress. When I was chatting with these friends about the kids of today and their devices the general tone was one of dismay. You know that conversation; chap A says that kids today don't know how to converse, that instead of chatting about the weather and having proper social intercourse with people they only know how to update their Facebook status and send IMs to each other. Chap B then agrees, quoting that Facebook status he put up in which he says that when he was a kid he used to roam the streets with no sense of time, only to return home at dinner time and how, in those days, he frequently fell in pits full of used hypodermics which never did him any harm whatsoever.

Then chappess C pipes in and agrees, though she, as is the case with chaps A and B, has no kids. I must confess it does amaze me how wise non parents can be about raising kids, yet on becoming parents most of us are so busy parenting that we forget about the preaching to others!

Eventually someone asks me, the meek and quiet fellow on the table, what I think. It's a subject I've put quite a lot of mental effort into. I see my girls and their friends sometimes and they can be stuck to their iPhones as if their lives depended on it. I've even felt my own sense of relief and joy when I've been on a few planes recently which have had wifi, albeit at a pretty high price, one that I've happily paid just to retrieve my emails and see what's going on for a while.

My opinion is the same as my opinion on many aspects of life. This continual connectivity, this device dependency, this virtual permanent online presence, is a phenomenon that is full of positives as well as negatives. But the positives by far outweigh the negatives.

Yes there is a bit of this kids not being able to interract in the ways we used to thing. There's a bit of frustration when they're out with their parents and busy playing a game rather than chatting to some old Uncle and telling him for the second time that week what GCSEs they're doing.

Yet the access to knowledge and information, the smallness of their world and the ways they can connect with people regardless of geography are positives that I so wish we had when we were kids.

When I was at school it was the boffins who would go to the school library and put in the extra effort. The rest of us would merely pay attention to what our teachers told us (sometimes), read only the textbooks we were given and do the homework we had to do in order to avoid detention. There was no Google, no search engines and no internet. Hell there were barely any computers then and as It was our normal we didn't even feel hard done by; that was all we knew.

I look at my kids now and see their instant access to knowledge. I know how any of us, given the need for information, can just open our phone, tablet, laptop or desktop and search and within seconds we have more information than we can digest. And that ease of access to information feeds a desire for more information. It's not an option to think "I'll look it up next time I go to the library" or "I'll ask an expert next time I see them".

No, it's become a life where, if most people are unsure about something or want to find out more, the knowledge is a couple of clicks away.

And, as a divorced Dad, one who's in a long distance relationship, I also see the benefits of the connectibility in terms of relationships.

I get to have daily contact with the Girls and C in ways that I never would have done twent, or even ten, years ago.

It's not the case that I speak to the Girls when we have a phone call or when we see each other. We have a continual stream of iMessages open, discussing everything from what we had for dinner to the meaning of life and much in between. And we Facetime and stalk each other's Vines, Instagrams and whatnot. I know a few other divorced Dads, one who lives in a different continent from his son even, who I'm sure feel exactly the same way about all of this technology.

So, to those moaners, those who think kids these days would be better of twenty years ago I say stop. Technology is fantastic. It shrinks the world, it makes our kids learn quicker, deeper and better.

And it has a few negatives, just a few things that could do with some modification.



Son of the Morning Light said...

as the intercontinental one, i agree. i remember being very excited when the wee man got his first mobile phone and i realized i could now text him anytime instead of waiting for the weekly skype. of course he ignores my texts most of the time, but still.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

It might not have been you DB!!

Son of the Morning Light said...

isn't everything about me?

Marc said...

at a client meeting recently the couple I met with spent most of the meeting taking notes on their phones instead of engaging with me.
There should be some form of social etiquette class in schools these days regarding the use of phones in public situations...

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

DB - Usually!

Marc - Yes, that much I agree with. It can get ridiculous.