Today I was missing my daughter, so I decided to Skype with her on my phone. The phone has a camera which can record video, so I can talk to her, and if she gets bored I’ll show her something besides my face. I take this for granted, but it is interesting to reflect that my “video phone” is actually just a regular phone on which I installed a third party application to enable two way video calls. It’s a banal and marginal use for the device. Information technology is far more ubiquitous than the occasional video conference.
Over at The Atlantic there’s a piece up, The Touch-Screen Generation, which channels some of the moral panic sweeping across this nation. Some of this panic may be justified, but as noted in the article this is something we’ve all seen before, all the way back to Plato and his fellow travelers worrying about the effect of literacy upon memory. And as parents we’ll have to set ground rules and guide lines. Because of the social and networked nature of modern technology I doubt that we’re in any danger of raising up a generation of Solarians.
One aspect of the piece in The Atlantic which is not excessively emphasized is that not all children are the same. Some children take to books very early, and some never take to books. This may be dispositional or situational, but it is nevertheless critical in determining future life trajectory. The small initial differences between young children in their information content diverges radically as the readers continue to absorb and expand their knowledge base at a far higher rate than non-readers. Modern information technology has the potential to widen these gaps. While some children might peruse Wikipedia for hours on end, others could wile away the hours on video sites.