Sunday, December 14, 2008

From one junkie to another.

The boys are watching a DVD right now, on Mr. Dog's laptop.  They confidently insert the disk and navigate the menus.  Big Dog can read some of them now, but he is long fluent in the symbols and process of the laptop and the DVD player.  He can even operate the TiVo remote, and some of his first site reading took place in the TiVo menus. We found that out the first time we tried to tell him there were no new Thomas the Tank Engine shows and he told us we were wrong.  

Recently we flew to Colorado for a family visit with Mr. Dog's parents and we kept the boys occupied with movies on our iPods.  They sat comfortably enjoying their films with child appropriate headphones, silent and occupied for the entire flight.  I'm sure my mom wishes she could go back in time and silence our airplane tantrums with a pocketful of technology.

They also enjoy snapping digital photos with either the camera or my iPhone.  I have dozens if not hundreds of oddly framed images taken from a child's perspective.  It comes like second nature for them.   And they love the iPhone.  Big Dog can play "Chimps Ahoy" for what feels like hours despite his 5-year-old attention span, and Little Dog will play his own iPhone game, "Preschool Adventures" while we sit waiting in a restaurant.  

When I see the ease with which they use our electronics I am kind of amazed.  As children of the 70's we didn't have such easy access to electronics.  I remember my childhood electronics, our Atari system, the Franklin Ace computer and our decathlon and Dark Crystal games we played with anemic green pixels dancing out on the dark screen creating rough, slow moving graphics.  (I also remember that wretched machine eating a high school paper just hours before the deadline so it wasn't a pure love relationship.)

My dad was always a technology junkie, and in turn he raised me to follow in those footsteps. To this day, I love all things tech.  And I am amazed at the speed with which we advance.  My first Mac, my sophomore year of college, had a whopping 4 MB of RAM and a 40 MB internal drive.  My iPhone is more powerful, and cost a tiny fraction of the $2,000 price tag.  The electronic toys my children are growing up with are probably more powerful than that system. And from my first personal computer, my addiction only grew. Cell phones, video and photography gear, DVD players, iPods, laptops the Internet, oh don't even get me started.  

So I'm not one of those parents who think electronics and children don't mix.  In fact, good technology is a powerful thing, and in their lifetimes there are probably few life tools more useful than a confidence and ease of adaption to technology in all forms.  Sure, we need to supervise, educate and interact with them as they gain this confidence, but at some point, I know the boys will surpass my understanding and I'll soon be asking them "hey, can you fix this for me?" Do I have a point?  Probably not.  I just think it is interesting to think about how differently they will relate to technology, and how I'll be there shepherding their way as long as I can. 


chihuahua5 said...

love this post. the parental units and i were actually just talking about this and reminiscing on our Pong, then Atari, our manual and then electronic typewriter, our first Apple computer, navigating a dot matrix printer (ya know..holes on both sides and having to carefully place it on the wheels so it wouldn't jam) etc.... it's amazing how far we've come and how it keeps on going :)

Sarah Vasquez said...

I completely agree with your sentiment on this. Juliet has been able to navigate my iPhone pretty much sense I got it and has been well versed in watching movies on our computers. This is why my parents (or rather my father, my mother thinks it is "wildly inappropriate") are giving her an old laptop (and by old I mean 4 or 5 years). Daddy and Mommy are tired of having their phones jacked at the most inopportune times so we have decided to get her a refurbished iPod touch for her birthday next week (wtf?! how did my baby get to be 3?!).

You should check out the "ABC animals" app. Juliet loves it.

Anonymous said...

I love watching the ease and comfort my kids have with only makes sense really.

My daughter is becoming the expert on her dads new website..she deftly navigates on the pc or laptop...knows all the symbols..and we believe it helps them both learn to read in the 'conventional' way too.

BoneFolder said...

Yeah the kiddies sort of teach themselves the tech, with sufficient motivation. Grey just intuitively used the mouse when he was like 3 -- I didn't teach him. I blame Dora and her point-and click "interactivity". But it's still marvelous.

Just for perspective I recall teaching otherwise intelligent grownups to use Macs in 1991, when I managed a copy shop. "Alright, see that arrow? That's the cursor. Move the mouse left and right -- see how it tracks? Now move the mouse up and down." And without taking eyes off the cursor, my pupil raises and lowers the mouse off the surface of the table.

Now Shosh notes that she'll show him something once, or simply do it in front of him without explanation, and we'll discover a folder full of carefully saved documents with misspelled names or whatever. And watching him adapt to a new videogame or website is amazing. They're just naturally conversant in the vocabulary of technology. Which I think will always be important.

Bill Hensler pointed out that kids are also naturally able to multitask in ways we could only dream of. His daughter was getting straight A's while doing homework, and listening to an iPod with the TV on and three chat windows open. Since he said that I realized he's right.

I think the most important technology area we can teach our kids is how to research and sort out information. Storing information is becoming a lost art because in the main it is no longer useful. It's horrifying to think that memorization is hopelessly passé, and part of me says they should learn this stuff in case the research tools aren't available. But there is so much more information out there than when we were growing up, and the search tools are so pervasive, that expecting a kid to absorb information they know they can get on demand is like preparing them for a survival situation that is unlikely to come. It's much more important and advantageous for the kid to learn how to find information -- and how to filter it.

As for Grey, we've already taught him how to search for stuff on Google and Wikipedia (which we have to do for him all the time anyway due to the incessant stream of questions about trivial factoids concerning whatever he's into.) With Google's "Did You Mean" feature there's no reason any kid with rudimentary writing skills cannot use Google.

As long as you're using NetNanny or something, of course.

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