In the United States, 90% of two-year-olds already have an online history. By age five, more than 50% are regularly interacting with a computer or a tablet device. By age seven, most kids are regularly playing video games. And the average teenager texts 3,400 times per month and spends eight hours a day online.
All of this hyper-texting, multimedia online gaming, and social media interaction is having a profound impact on our children. But are we thinking about it? Are educators using this to accelerate learning in their classroom? Are parents guiding the use of technology in their homes? Do we even realize that technology is transforming what it is to be a kid?
Like most people, I would like the future to be better than the present. But rather than sit back and hope for a better tomorrow (which is a very weak strategy), we all need to start actively creating a better future now if we really want one.
Hope is not a strategy. That’s why we all need to get more involved and ask, “How can we use technology to enhance and support the development of well balanced kids who are prepared to thrive in a world of transformational change?”
We may or may not have an enlightened future. I would rather have one. Why don’t we start by asking what an enlightened future looks like? And then, why don’t we start creating it?
The world is changing fast for our children while in the past it changed slowly. For example, in the early days of television, Baby Boomers watched shows like The Lone Ranger and the early version of Superman. When the Lone Ranger was chasing the bad guy, he did not kill the other person (like they do in today’s television shows and video games); the Lone Ranger was such a good shot that he would shoot the pistol out of the guy’s hand with one shot and then take him to jail.
Likewise, Superman didn’t fatally wound anyone either. He would grab the gun from his foe and bend the barrel of the gun to the point where the bad guy simply gave up. (And then he’d hand the bad guy over to the authorities.)
When a new level of cartoons and children’s shows filled with violence became popular to the Generation X crowd, people got concerned. They spoke up. They took action. That’s when we started seeing educational TV shows appear such as Sesame Street to provide some sort of balance. People got involved, and even though they couldn’t stop the violence on TV, they did temper it with some positive programming.
Right now, we have another transformation taking place faster than ever before—and that is the transformation of how kids play, learn, study, communicate, and spend their time. My concern isn’t that it’s happening; my concern is that educators, government, and parents are sitting back, just hoping for the best. That’s too passive.
Remember that technology is neither good nor evil. It’s just a tool. Technology could give you cancer or it could cure your cancer. So don’t blame the technology. The real issue is how humans decide to use the technology.
As parents, as educators, as government leaders, and as community leaders, why don’t we think about how can we actively shape a positive future, help children enjoy technology, and enable them to use it to create a better world for all of us? The key is to take action and stop living in hope. Hope is not a strategy. So let’s start creating a better tomorrow today.