Parents put a lot of attention on their children having the right balance of technology in their lives. They will never be Luddites, their embrace on technology is sticky and affectionate from a young age. However, is our own later life addiction to technology helping us to parent well and to be more productive human beings?
At our Tiny Little Trade Show last week, Clemens Kirner CEO of Augmented Reality Company Insider Navigation talked about how their are more mobile phones in the world than toothbrushes. He also talked about the potential for the mobile phone to create more beautiful journeys through life at work and at leisure. Nothing he said frightened me about the future. The role of technology in his vision added to life with clarity and simplicity, yet I started to wonder if my own relationship with technology is instead cluttered and noisy.
Recently, I find myself wondering if technology is a cuckoo in the nest of family life? Maybe it was when my then seven month old was swiping with her index finger before she was waving at other human beings? Or was it overhearing my five year old attempting a meaningful conversation with Siri about pancakes that look like Elsa from Frozen. Siri had knowledge that I did not have. My children are forming bonds with machines in parallel with humans and it seems full of trust and affection. Yet my own relationship is less natural, the machine is a newer friend to me and in ways it has been a false friend.
My own relationship is more complex, emails pinging, storage that needs updating, system reboots and general distraction. From internet shopping to the celebrity side bar of shame. Technology takes me great places, places i would never have been otherwise, but i don't enjoy all of those places. Technology is a balance of noise and beauty. I want to end the noise.
I love internet shopping, i love mapping my walks, i love scrolling through pictures of my kids on the train, i love sending a postcard with a picture of my family on it and combining old and new technologies. As we start to bring more elements of beautiful automation into daily life at home and at work - perhaps we need to figure out how much technology is helpful, what reduces stress, what automates monotony and what just creates more noise?
In the words of the 70's TV Show ' Why Don't You?', sometimes we have to remember to put down the TV set/Netflix/I-pad/Android and go out and do something less boring instead. Technology for kids isn't boring, but i think we are boring as parents when we are answering emails, scrolling the headlines and checking the football scores. We are better when we have used the internet to shop and we can play with our kids instead of dragging them around the supermarket. When we are able to Uber ourselves to anywhere, order dinner delivered by drone, design a toy with our kids and 3D print it. That's all cool shit.
I'm really fascinated with seeking out technology that inspires, automates meaningfully and adds to the beauty of life. While on this quest, it will be hard to tune out all of the noise, but this is my mission.
Many of us worry what technology is doing to our kids. reports show that their addiction to iAnything is diminishing empathy, increasing bullying (pdf), robbing them of time to play, and just be. So we parents set timers, lock away devices and drone on about the importance of actual real-live human interaction. And then we check our phones. Sherry Turkle, the author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, turned the tables by imploring parents to take control and model better behavior. A 15-year-old boy told her: “someday he wanted to raise a family, not the way his parents are raising him (with phones out during meals and in the park and during his school sports events) but the way his parents think they are raising him — with no phones at meals and plentiful conversation.”