It is indisputable that technology in the 21st century is shaping lives, relationships, communication, culture, political revolutions, business, education, delivery of medical care and research, essentially every aspect of life today. The pace with which technological advances are being made is rapid and will not be slowed.
While taking care of my elderly mother I have stayed connected clinically through Skype. My elderly mother has asked, how is it that your computer is talking to you and your patients? Perplexing to her, yes. Tool for me, absolutely. That being said, I have professional and personal concerns about how technology is a driving force and how fundamentally it is changing the very fabric and structure of communication. It is abundantly clear that many consider this “progress”, as the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg was progress.
However, I argue that with progress it is imperative and our responsibility to be smart and educated about technology as a tool, as well, to be aware of its shortcomings and hazards. Just as we would not hand the keys to a Ferrari to a 10 year old, we should not hand the “keys” to the world (www.), social media, tweeting, texting to a child or teen without the proper education, guidance, monitoring, and discipline.
If we view technology from the perspective of multiple lens: information access, communication process, or social media instrument it gives us a different picture and therefore requires different understanding. For parents of elementary age children, knowing that an “ I phone” is really a portable computer is critical. Do you want your child to be able to call you or do you want them to have a hand held computer? For parents of tweens, allowing them access to Facebook opens a whole world of “connectedness”. There are some who argue that it is “faux” camaraderie, not really social at all and is actually quite illusory about connection. There has been discussion of “Facebook Depression” and many instances of “bullying”, harassment and hacking. How many of you as adults have hit “send” only to groan and wish you had waited just 10 seconds, 10 minutes, 10 hours before doing so.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently published a clinical report, “The Impact of Social Media Use on Children, Adolescents and Families”. It is our responsibility to understand Generation D, or Digital Generation. We must be proactive to educate, guide, protect, set rules and limits, and monitor. We absolutely must be aware of how it is having the most basic impact as communication becomes increasingly virtual, losing face to face context and nuance. Our brains are not neurologically wired to be “on” 24/7. Keeping a sharply focused eye on balance and change is critical. Be active and involved and tuned in as the genie is not going back in the bottle.