A few weeks ago my eldest, five years old, said “There’s six of us in this family Daddy. Mummy, you, Carrie, me, Jasmine (our cat, since departed) and your phone.” Cue some laughter and a look between my wife and I and the predictable discussion later about the penetration of
technology into our lives.
Actually, in my defence, it was less of an observation that my phone received as much attention as anyone else in the family, and deserved a place setting at the table, as the fact that she’d just discovered the SIRI function, where the phone could talk back to you. And we could ask
Try asking an iPhone to show pictures of yourself, or your child, and see what it comes up with. (Kids find it remarkably funny to see all these other people around the world with the same name.
Or Lois did, anyway).
There are innumerable sticks to beat yourself with as a parent. Are they watching too much TV, do they have too many sweets, should all meals be at the table, should they be out playing in the dirt that we’re told kids aren’t exposed to enough in our super-sanitised baby wipe / hand gel world? Are they cleaning their teeth for two minutes twice a day, are we spending enough time
reading with them?
Nobody gets all these things right, of course. And we’re all, to some extent, making it up as we go along. We are making it up as we go as a society too. Always have done; I suppose that’s how it works. But given how quickly technology is changing now it’s become more noticeable. More than ever, the technology kids grow up with is vastly different to that which their parents grew up with.
Nobody knows what the impact of Internet-connected mobile phones will be on individuals and society thirty years on, because they’ve not been around that long. One example. What if society’s interest in our natural world, and preserving it, is lessened because future generations literally don’t get as much of a buzz from it – their minds have developed to cope with the speed, brightness, animation of an online virtual world and the real world simply doesn’t cut it for them? Like becoming desensitised to a drug and needing bigger and better hits to get the same wow factor. It’s an issue for us adults. But the kids of today may never experience these things in their pure form. They will always be augmented, by posting to Facebook, tweeting about it, photographing it. Or diverted from it by a vibrate of a text or yourself being tagged in someone else’s current experience. And this is before we’re all wearing Google glasses that literally annotate the world we see.
When are we ever truly just appreciating the environment we’re in? A beautiful sunset, or a walk on the beach. Even just standing in a queue at the shop. How often do we check our phones when
doing these things?
I know, I know. I sound like a luddite. And old. I’m not saying we don’t let our kids, or ourselves, use this technology – they will need it, after all. I’m saying there’s a time and a place.
It should be a tool that we use, not an addiction without which our lives are dull and uninteresting.
Steve Mayes | Steve Mayes Photography