Sitting with Little I on the sofa this weekend, she picked up my latest copy of Time magazine (which is my little luxury in life) and asked “Who’s that man, Mummy?” She was pointing to the man pictured on the front cover. “That’s Steve Jobs,” I answered. “He was a very important inventor – he created the Apple brand, which makes lovely computers and mobile phones like Daddy’s.” “Hmmm,” she mused, “Steve Jobs, Apple…important man”.
An hour or two later, Little I went back to the magazine, picked it up and said: “Steve Jobs…Apple…makes ‘puters and mobile phones”. I’m not completely sure that she knew what she was talking about, and I’m sure me calling Steve Jobs “important” had appealed to her as it’s currently one of her favourite, most over-used words; but I found her recall of the conversation to be extremely poignant. The fact that he was a man who made computers and mobile phones made sense to her, at the impressionable age of 2.5 years. This is the world that she’s growing up in; a world that’s filled with gadgets and devices, providing her with always-on, ubiquitous access to information, video, music, communications etc.
We have a fairly techie household filled with PCs, laptops, a tablet PC, smartphones, iPods, a Flip, Google TV and more. Little I is so comfortable with the technology already. She is capable of opening up YouTube on our Google TV and then tells us what she wants us to search for…usually “owls” or “foxes”! She even knows how to open up the Angry Birds app on my husband’s smartphone. I’m not saying this to brag, as I know many of her friends can do the same – instead I’m making the point that this is the world our children are growing up in.
I can genuinely see a point in the near future when children, maybe my daughter, will be studying people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in their history class instead of Hitler and Mussolini, and being taught the history of the Internet instead of World War 2. Hell that might even be the case already.
What I can’t decide is whether this is a good thing or not. A recent study, as reported by the BBC, claims that social network sites may be actually changing people’s brains, possibly boosting the amount of grey matter in certain parts of the brain. Grey matter is the brain tissue where mental processing takes place. So this access to networked technology could be making our children more intelligent!
There’s no doubt that Little I has far greater access to information and multimedia than I did at her age, and she’s clearly already learning things from the technology that surrounds her at home. But is this distracting her from the simple things in life that only the young and innocent can truly appreciate? I happened to catch a TV ad on Nick Jr. yesterday for a children’s e-book reading system, which opened with the words: “Once upon a time there were books, now there’s Storio where stories come alive…”. I felt like shouting at the TV: “What was ever wrong with books?!”
So while there’s clearly no escaping the ‘Appleisation’ and ‘Googleisation’ of the world that our youngsters are growing up in, I really hope everything that happened prior to the birth of the Internet won’t be written off for them…particularly the good old-fashioned book!