Rise of the Machines

I went to Disney World for the first time for my 21st birthday.

I usually get a number of different reactions to that statement, including “Oh, that’s so cute!” and “I’ve had so much more fun at Disney when I’ve been older” and “Really? Your 21st birthday was at Disney? And your first legal drink was a Michelob Light?”[1]

My first visit to Disney World and the subsequent discussion of when my wife and I will be introducing Eitan to Disney are both topics for a different blog entry. The reason I brought up Disney is because while Trudy and I were there, we went on the “ride” at Epcot all about evolving technology and the ways technology affects our daily lives.  Anyone who’s been to Epcot knows exactly the ride I’m talking about.  It’s the one where you sit in the seats and see the same family living room over the course of different decades and they sing that song, “It’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” over and over again. And while I’m not sure today is particularly greater, bigger or more beautiful than yesterday[2], I have been thinking a bit more about the ways technology is changing and what that’s going to mean for Eitan as he grows up.

Here are a few things that were around when I was growing up that Eitan is never going to see, much less use, unless he’s at a museum:

-a record player

-cassette tapes (music or video)

-typewriters

-computers that need a program disk in order to do anything

-rotary telephones

-newspapers

Before you say that last one was too extreme, think about it for a second.  When I was growing up, we had a subscription to one newspaper.  In Chicago we got The Chicago Tribune, on Long Island we got Newsday and in New Jersey it was the Star-Ledger.[3] Now that my wife and I have our own place, we don’t subscribe to a paper because we get all our news online. Every newspaper has a website, and most news sites don’t even bother with paper copies in the first place. Half the time we find out news because of Facebook or Twitter and then go to a different place to find out more details. I’m sure Eitan will be able to see print newspapers, but they’re going to become rarer as he gets older.

There are two primary ways of thinking about technology with regard to kids.  The way I hear most often is the feeling of dread about the internet because kids are going to be on Facebook and YouTube and they’re going to be exposed to all kinds of horrors and pedophiles are going to abduct them and the immediate access of smart phones means less monitoring from parents and my God won’t someone think of the children!

My response, to use a phrase from a fellow dad blogger, is that people need to Calm the F Down.[4]

The other way of thinking about technology is that it’s an opportunity.  Teaching kids about being a responsible digital citizen[5] is just another conversation for a parent to have with their child.  We can do things online together.  Maybe Eitan will start a blog of his own.  Maybe we’ll start a family fantasy sports league together.  Kids always learn about technology things faster than their parents, so I’ll have Eitan teach me about the things he’s learning (which also brings the added bonus of me being able to monitor his online usage more effectively).  The point is, technology is going to keep changing and it’s going to keep becoming more and more a part of our lives.  I’m fine with it, as long as there are some limits and I can still kick Eitan out of the house and make him play outside once in a while.

But in the meantime, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to Candy Crush.

 

This entry was inspired by a comment from my cousin, who has a blog of his own that you should all check out here: http://softblackwater.wordpress.com/


[1] Considering the types of alcohol I’d been exposed to at the time, I still have no problem with the choice. Also, we were at ESPNZone watching the NHL playoffs, so I was going to get a beer as opposed to something harder. That being said, I may still not be exactly a beer connoisseur, but I’m happy to say I’ve grown in terms of my preferences.

[2] Except Candy Crush.  Candy Crush is definitely great, big and beautiful.

[3] Never the New York Times. My father would never subscribe to a paper that didn’t have a comics section.  Also, Newsday was an okay paper, except for one unbelievably annoying flaw: if a game ended too late, either because it ran long or was played on the west coast, the box score wouldn’t show up in the paper the next day. For a kid whose primary team was from a different time zone (the Central, but still), it was unacceptable not to be able to know what the result was of the game the night before.  At least I wasn’t playing fantasy sports yet.  But I digress.

[5] Listen to the NYC Dads Group Podcast for more about this: http://www.nycdadsgroup.com/2013/07/podcast-episode-4-realistic-approach-to.html

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