My kids are getting tablets for Christmas.
They don’t know yet, of course, and I’m still reeling from actually consenting to such a thing. My childhood was almost completely free from television and computers and yet here I am, handing the gift-wrapped Internet to my children. I was born in 1984…so whether or not I am a millenial depends widely on which news article you read. Like a pair of jeans at an outlet store, the story of my life has been one of never quite fitting just right. I am old enough to remember a life without Internet and cell phones, but young enough to have had these things during my teen years. Technology had not yet invaded every corner of our lives. Today, I struggle to find the right fit for my children who are growing up in a world vastly different from the one I knew.
I recently saw an advertisement with an adorable hipster-dressed little girl (or boy, it was a little hard to tell…probably intentionally so) riding her bike around the city with her iPad Pro. After documenting her adventures and creating comics on her nifty little gadget, the end of her ride found her in her backyard tapping away at her keyboard while lounging in the grass. Her neighbor came out and said, “Whatcha doing on your computer?” And the little girl/boy said, “What’s a computer?”
For some reason, this advertisement has really stuck with me. Props to Apple for doing a terrific job at combining all of the elements of childhood we deem essential (riding bikes, climbing trees, hanging out with friends) and managing to insert their product in the middle of it…making it an integral part of modern growing up. I found myself wondering if that’s what life for kids is now. It seems more and more like it. But is it really a bad thing? How do we as parents adjust our thinking?
Go read a book! I tell my children, hoping to get them away from their beloved screens. But what if I told them to go read a book on their tablet? Would the fight to get them to love reading diminish? Would it open the world to them in the same way the library opened the world to me? I loved the library as a child because it offered me knowledge…more than I could ever dream possible. But my kids have knowledge at their fingertips and now, the gateway is the computer/tablet. What I want for my children is to love learning and knowledge…and the way the world gives them (and me!) these things now is through our technology.
Their childhood is not going to look exactly like mine because the world is not the same. That’s a good thing in many ways but makes me regretful in others. It makes navigating the world more challenging for me but it also forces me out of my comfort zone. It forces me to learn how to teach technology as a useful tool in pursuit of what truly matters–knowledge and wisdom. We must learn to teach them a balanced life…to know when to use the tools and when to put them away.