Technology has created a significant new challenge to parenting. I struggle to think of anything since the printing press that would affect parenting as much as technology <smartphones, cell phones, i-pads, etc.> is doing.
Television was different (it’s not portable).
Cars was different (cannot drive until 16).
3rd grade children are, on average, eight years old.
20% of 3rd grade boys and 18% of 3rd grade girls already have a cell phone <2011 Massachusetts study of elementary, middle, and high school students>.
By the time children reach 5th grade, 39% of the kids have cell phones.
More than 83% of the students have a cellular device by middle school.
I have mixed feelings.
And frankly its not because of kids having access to this technology at too young an age … its more because of the quote I began with … we <older folk> cannot imagine a childhood mediated by technology.
And because we cannot imagine it … we have a propensity to limit it.
We all focus on ‘my kid is attached to their cell phone’ or ‘all they do is text’ or <fill in the blank>.
Is that wrong?
Geez. Parts of it doesn’t sound wrong and yet parts of it does sound wrong … because they are already living in a world I struggle to even imagine.
And <to increase the challenge> I cannot even come close to imagining what their adult world will look like.
Part of me thinks it is silly to restrict their usage of something that is already integral to today’s world.
Another part of me understands that we adults <including teachers and the overall education system> are not set up to manage their usage (unless we use guidelines from our own youth … which seems unbelievably silly).
I have another post where I will note the increasing % of children below the age of 5 using computers <there are even kindergartens that have this now> to learn.
I have had multiple debates with other TED participants with regard to the ultimate effect on cognitive learning <I am on technology’s side and I am in a minority>.
It is a whole new world.
And while we older folk may try and keep up with the technology we run the risk of not keeping up with our children’s’ world.
No. I don’t have an answer.
Yes. I do believe we adults need to come up with an entirely new set of ‘rules’ that will make us feel incredibly uncomfortable in dealing with our children.
Here is what I do know.
It will not be long before that 83% having cellular devices will be at the 3rd grade level.
It will not be long before over 80% of ALL children (any age … including less than 5) will have access to the internet.
We either need to accept it and do something to take advantage of it or we run the risk of creating the largest generational gap <and ensuing friction> since maybe age of the printing press.
One day after I published the first version of this post I received the new Economist and had to add the following letter to the editor to my post:
SIR – Your special report <the third industrial revolution> is a warning bell for America’s outdated education system. Digital technology surrounds every facet of our lives. But when children walk into school they are usually told to give up the tools that power this new digital revolution and travel back in time to the days of Henry Ford’s factories. Indeed, classrooms in 2012 would seem normal to students in 1912: a teacher at the front, a board behind her to write on, two dozen children lined in rows who come and go as the proverbial steam whistle lets them know their shift is over.
We left that world a long time ago, and the customised and innovative tools of digital learning are long overdue in our education system. The disruptive nature of the digital revolution may bring more prosperity than either of its predecessors, but if the West cannot change its 19th-century model of education we will cede this wealth to others.
American Legislative Exchange Council
True, so true. We need to leave a world behind and need to make the changes that will make us feel uncomfortable … but needed.