iGeneration Serves Notice Of a New Inalienable Right
The great march of technology was temporarily derailed in our household recently.
My wife and I are parents of two children who belong to a thoroughly new demographic. This group — descendants of the baby boomers, Generation X and a close cousin to Generation Y — are sometimes referred to as the “New Silent Generation.” Why so? I’d fathom it’s because they’ve always got their heads down, clacking away at the mobile devices in their hands.
These are the digital natives — the iGeneration — the children who don’t know a time without mobile smartphones or, in our 5-year-old son’s case, a home without an iPad.
They are our future, these digital natives, for whom swiping and thumb-noodling are innate.
In his new book “iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession With Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us,” psychologist Larry Rosen begins the first chapter with two quotes:
— Albert Einstein: “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”
— Frank Lloyd Wright: “If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger.”
Rosen’s premise is that we’ve all grown a little too fond of our personal electronic devices to the point where they govern our relationships, rule our sleep patterns and interdict our very lives in a steady bombardment of status updates, text messages and tweets.
Surely you’ve been out to dinner or to a movie or at a social gathering and seen people who can’t go more than a few minutes without glancing down at their phones as though they’re awaiting an urgent message from the president.
But is this addiction or really just culture changing in front of our unblinking eyes?
On the occasion of fifth-grade graduation this past June, we passed down to our daughter, Loreleigh, an early-generation iPod Touch that we no longer needed. She took it in hand as eagerly as a 16-year-old handed keys to the family car. Except, whereas the 16-year-old would not have gone out and put 20-inch rims and a bright acrylic paint job on the hand-me-down, Loreleigh had that iPod tricked out within the hour. It was thoroughly hers, from the apps loaded on it to the “wallpaper” of her favorite band. When she’s home from school, the device is almost always in her hand.
For all her technological savvy, she soon will quickly be outpaced by her 5-year-old brother, who can navigate an iPad like Huck Finn could a raft down the Mississippi. He’s just beginning to recognize words and numbers, but ask him to find a video on YouTube and it’s like watching a scene from the futuristic virtual reality thriller “Minority Report.”
In fact, standing in front of his grandpa’s staid desktop computer recently, he kept pressing icons on the screen, wondering why games wouldn’t open. For him, a computer mouse just doesn’t compute.
Lest you think we are incubating the next great team of scientists to build Martian probes, the sad news is that the technological march faltered recently. Ayden had his technology privileges yanked for not being straight with the truth, and Loreleigh could have her iPod the same number of minutes that she reads that day.
It didn’t go well. They believe we stomped on their inalienable right to access the Internet, throttled their ability to thrive as modern humans.
If you’ve seen the same looks from your kids or grandchildren, you know what I’m talking about. This new generation expects that the digital domain is theirs for the taking and that they risk being left behind if denied access.
Our kids still need fresh air and pursuits that require lungs and legs, but I also recognize that technology is as defining a component of their generation as political protest was for their grandparents.
Now, floating your raft down the river of the world comes from a connected mobile device. Are today’s kids being “robbed” of their childhood if they cede these things for another vigorous finger-flinging of Angry Birds? Maybe, but I can also tell you that, growing up, I never had the means at my disposal to make a movie, record a song or write a multimedia book from my lap. And if my parents made us fingerpaint in the backyard to stimulate creativity, well then, aren’t we today doing the same thing for this new generation by handing them an iPad for an hour?
Albert Einstein envisioned scientific theory in an age that had yet to go into space. Frank Lloyd Wright died long before his philosophy of organic architecture became widely accepted. I’m not convinced these visionaries would be afraid of the iGeneration.
Contact Pilot Editor John Nagy at firstname.lastname@example.org or (910) 693-2507.
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