In the late 20th century, even into early 21st century, kids rode bikes, skateboarded outside and came in only when it got dark. Fast forward to the invention and sale of consumer technology — handheld, desktop, laptop, tablet, gaming device, system or otherwise.
Children, like my own daughter who graduated this year, and those who follow after her, will never know a world without Google as both a noun and verb. They will never understand that a phone was once confined to a room by a winding, always-too-short cord. An urgent message was received by the vibrating pager on your hip, and if out, you were forced to find a pay phone to return the call.
There was no Angry Birds on the iPad, iPhone or Droid; no texting, custom music playlists, no Seri, no social media, not even an electronic voice to provide the comfort of driving directions on a Smartphone.
If you wanted to talk to someone, you didn’t email or text them with an abbreviated form of the English language. You didn’t Skype or Facebook. You went to their home or their business or you picked up a phone.
If you were lost, you stopped and asked for directions, or you simply pulled out the paper map from glove compartment of your car.
During the school year, you worked out your math problems on paper. You weren’t given calculators to use with testing. You sketched out your answers on scratch paper and turned it in to show you knew how to get the results.
You wrote your name in cursive because although you had the typewriter, keyboard technology hadn’t replaced your need for a personalized signature.
Homework wasn’t scheduled around Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii or Nintendo 3DS video game time, and the freedom of summer didn’t turn you into technology zombies.
Today’s kids, connected 24/7, have hundreds of “friends” they’ve actually never met in cities, states and countries they may never go to. For these hyper-connected adolescents, technology isn’t a luxury, but a necessity, no different in importance than the proper amount of sleep and diet.
The idea of a 10-year-old with a cell phone was once ludicrous, but now kindergartners have them.
First impressions have lost their importance, as first-job applicants can no longer apply at the local business, but instead get directed online. A corporate officer then will decide if the applicant is worthy of an interview at an actual place of business.
And without adult intervention, how is a teen, come time for a person-to-person job interview, going to know to look the interviewer in the eye when all he is accustomed to is looking down at his fingers darting across the cell keyboard?
A Nielsen survey revealed that U.S. teen girls exchanged an average of 3,952 text messages per month, with the boys not far behind at 2,815 texts.
Doctors are actually seeing teens (and adults) for a new condition coined “text neck” or the natural inclination to lean your head forward while texting.
A graduating student of mine played the new Diablo 3 computer game for over 27 hours within the first three days of ownership. Sadly, that is not the exception, but the rule.
A mother I spoke to recently saw her son playing war games on a gaming system and instructed him to go and “play with his friends.”
His response eerily mirrored responses across the world: “I already am.”