Friday, February 5, 2010

#3. How young is too young?

Our son Josiah turned 2 years old last November and so we thought [as any logical, healthy, loving, parents would] "It's time he had his very own Ipod touch! I mean after all, he has been on the planet for 24 WHOLE months, and he can almost use the bathroom on his it's time right?" He loves using his ipod for a myriad of mind-numbing activities. He holds our family's high score at the paper toss app, and his favorite song to listen to is "paparazzi" by Lady Gaga. We really think those little white ear buds are the key to his educational and social success. What a bright future that Ipod is going to provide for him!

If you're picking up on my sarcasm don't feel too special, because I am laying it on pretty thick. I have a love-hate relationship with all things technological. I love it's provision of information and it's speedy delivery of that information. I love how it eases the burden of research and communication, and how it provides instant access to the media and art that shapes our culture. I HATE how you have to sell your soul to love any of the previously mentioned "advantages" in the information age. I could talk for hours about this subject, but you probably wouldn't read it, so allow me just to share 1 story...

...I'll never forget the first time I saw it. About 5 years ago I was in a Chili's restaurant in the suburbs with the in-laws on a Friday night. I needed to use the restroom and, as I rounded the corner, there it was. In one paradoxical moment I looked on in wonder and devastation. He was about 9 years old and was having dinner with his parents...well sort of. Their table was stiff and cold. Absent of conversation or eye contact. It was as if there were three tables all with one person sitting their eating and living and breathing solo. Did I mention that the 9 year old had two white earbuds in and was gripping his new Ipod? IT WAS THE WEIRDEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN. Three people sitting within 2 feet of one another eating and living completely divorced from the reality of their familial situation. Technology had wedged itself in and was not going to take "Not at the dinner table!" for an answer. You know what's the craziest thing about that, my first, experience with the incredible Apple Ipod is? The craziest thing is that 5 short years later a 9 year old who would rather listen to JAy-Z than his own parents at the dinner table isn't so crazy.

When I was 16 [that was a little over a decade ago for those of you keeping score at home] the greatest piece of mobile technology available to us was a pager. That's right...a pager. I was a freshmen in college before I got my first email address. "Social Networking" came after college. NOW, most 16 year olds demand a cell phone, with unlimited text and web, a lap-top for school or maybe just pleasure, and an ipod. Completely mobile, and ISOLATED lives. I know some 8 & 9 year olds that have nicer cell phones than I do. I know some middle-schoolers who spend between 6-10 hours on any given day validating their existence on myspace and facebook.

Steve Jobs just announced that Apple sold their 300 millionth Ipod a few weeks back. That is one for every single person in the United States. Pretty impressive right? 300 million people who, thanks to technology, can now eat dinner by themselves. How young is too young? What's your answer?

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