Parenting And Technology: What Does the Future Hold?

Technology and our kids

Do you ever stop to think about what the world is going to be like in 15 years? It doesn’t sound like that long, but when you look at how much things have changed over the last 15 years, you almost can’t help but wonder.

To be honest, I don’t really let myself think about it often, and when I do, I get caught up in the flashes of my children as adults, the distance that hopefully won’t be between us, and the whole scary issue of aging. What I don’t often think about is technology. I don’t let myself dabble in which weird sci-fi movie will one day no longer be fiction. I try not to get lost worrying about the blurred moral and ethical lines that come with the influx of cyber everything.

Technology and our kids

At dinner the other night, my long time friend nodded to our group of young children (2 years, 3 years, and 6 years) and said “I bet these guys won’t even have to drive their own cars.”

“No way!” I said, “You think in 10 years all of the cars out there will just be gone? No way.” Then, I was quickly reminded that several automakers already have self driving cars, that Google uses them regularly, and the technology is already there. (Pretty sure a mic drop followed.) Sure Tesla has had it’s fair share of bad press lately, but it’s hard to deny they are onto something world changing.

In the grand scheme of things, a teen driver with an autopilot option on the car should be a parent’s dream! You don’t have to worry about texting, distractions, following the speed limit… but it sent me down a Matrix fearing slippery slope. (A movie which, by the way, I have and will always despise.) If my children are no longer in charge of their cars, what else are they giving up control of? What happens when that technology fails them and “manual” is the only option? I can’t argue that it’s not coming, and I can list plenty of pros, but I also have some serious concerns.

The conversation went from self driving cars to the sports package of the future. Picture this: choose your seat in any given stadium for “x” dollars and with your virtual reality headset, that will be your 360* view for the season. Have your buddies “buy” the seats nearby and it’s like you’re there together.

Except you’re not. In reality, you’re alone, and you’re hoping that this online technology has truly shown your friends and not some computer generated image that sounds and looks like your friends. Then again, how would you even know? Hopefully this doesn’t make me sound like some crazy conspiracy theorist, but I feel like the best way to see a game with your friends, is to see a game with your friends. I guess that makes me old fashioned.

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I say that, but then have such a hard time knowing where to draw the line! If I can’t stand the idea of the VR sports package, does that mean I should also steer clear of the chance to pop on a headset and virtually tour Stonehenge, The Colosseum, or The African Savanna? I would do that in a heartbeat. Those are experiences I’ll probably never have in real life and may only dream of. How could I say no? The more I think about it, the more gray it all becomes.

So here’s a question: is technology making humanity less human, or is it enhancing our human experience?

When I first started writing this piece, my answer was a stressed “Yes! We’re losing our humanity!” Since then, I’ve thought a little more, been online a little more, and Pokemon Go erupted. Yes, Pokemon Go is on the list of things I’ve pondered trying to decide how I feel about the techy world we live it.

Sitting outside on the main street in a small little downtown area just the other night, I saw people out together having fun. Groups of friends, children with their parents, 30 somethings trying to be cool. They were all out, walking around, with a common interest, and SMILING. Sure their noses were in their phones, but then they talked with whoever was with them about their last capture or what Pokestop they should hit up next. How is that a bad thing? Other than not paying attention, something we are all guilty of when enthralled in something exciting, what’s the harm?

Maybe the answers to all of these questions about technology aren’t so black and white. Maybe technology can be a central part of our existence while also bringing us closer together. If you look carefully you can see glimpses of that happening all around.

I have some seriously mixed up feelings when it comes to the future. Sometimes I just don’t like it. I want to teach my kids cursive writing, I want them to know how to drive a car (and shift gears!), I want them to sit in traffic and tailgate before a game. I don’t want screens to be a necessary part of everything in our lives. I also can’t say no to the opportunities and experiences technology is bringing us. Thank goodness for the gray area, because when it comes to technology, that is most certainly where I’m stuck.


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