On the emerging generation

There’s a piece in the Guardian over the weekend about young children’s use of new technology.  It’s well written and based on some solid research so – before I make any critical observations – be aware that there’s a lot that’s good about it.

However, I should say that I’m unconvinced by the strapline about pre-schoolers being more likely to use a smartphone than tie their shoe-laces.  I distinctly remember learning to tie my own shoelaces shortly after starting school.  The need to do this has probably reduced slightly in the years since but improvements in Velcro, not in smarphones, are responsible for this.  In fact the skills that this generation will really never get to learn are using text-based DOS type computers, and setting VHS video recorders.

In any case articles such as this – and more so the sort of responses that they attract on the Internet, need to be mediated through the effect that some adults always tend to see a deterioration in children’s behaviour, and there are well-documented examples of middle-aged people complaining about the low standards of the youth going back to ancient Greek and Roman times.  It’s a safe assumption that these same adults have been blaming these low standards on technological innovations at least since the industrial revolution.

Specifically, some of the discourse about today’s use of the Internet is very similar to the discourse that I remember about my generation’s use of television.  But there’s one important difference.  The moan about television was, and to an extent still is, that it might create a generation of couch potatoes who would simply slump on a sofa passively for hours.  Whereas the moan about smartphones and the Internet is that they could be creating a generation that’s hyperactive, and children so conditioned to everything being interactive that they can’t sit still even to watch an episode of Blue Peter. Sometimes the young can’t win.

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