Help! Technology Stole My Childhood

April 21, 2009

Whether it’s texting a friend or downloading the newest song off iTunes, being a kid has changed drastically. Gone are the days of waking up for Saturday morning cartoons and in are chatrooms and spending hours watching YouTube. It can be argued that technology has made our lives easier and enables us to accomplish more, but to say that technology has improved life all around is far fetched.

Do you remember when you would wake up Saturday mornings and watch The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or go over to your friends house for a sleep over and get excited when you could stay up past your bedtime? You may not remember all the details, but you do remember how much fun it was to be a kid. As a kid you worried about when you would lose your next tooth and whether you would get the ‘nice’ teacher at school. Nowadays, kids have different priorities and different agendas.

To give you an idea of what kids know and do now, I asked some 11 year olds the other day if they knew what “Monopoly” and “Jenga” was to which they responded no. When asked if he knew who Britney Spears and 50 Cent were, they knew immediately. 11 year olds don’t know popular board games, but do know pop sex idol, Britney Spears, and rapper 50 Cent. Do you see something wrong here? Kids are growing up too fast and technology has a huge part in this.

Technology can be a powerful tool when used wisely. With that said, how do we expect children to use it wisely when they don’t even have a firm understand of what right and wrong are? The saying, “let them figure it out on their own” should not be applied to this argument. Make the wrong move and technology has no ‘restart’ button. When parents needed to keep their kids distracted they would commonly give them a toy to play with or let them watch cartoons. Nowadays, children are given cellphones and computers instead. Just the other day I had a friend request on Facebook by a 7 year old. I rejected it, but it makes me wonder the impact of technology in children’s lives and upbringing.

So what are your kids learning?

It’s okay to date older people

Teen pop queen, Miley Cyrus has made dating older ‘cool.’ When people discovered that 16 year old, Miley Cyrus was dating 22 year old Justin Gaston, did people explode with backlash? Nope, and neither did kids. Kids look up to icons like Miley Cyrus and will emulate them whether it is good or bad.

Sex is no big deal

Need to learn about the birds and bees? Just watch TV. Kids don’t need to hear it from their parents anymore, they can just watch basic cable and learn from a 30 minute show. Here they learn that sex is casual, sex is no big deal. Believe it or not but their was a time when kids would believe babies came from storks. I don’t think kids even know what storks are anymore.

Why read when you can Google?

For the most part, unless they have too, kids would rather just Google the answer to a question. With so much information available and kids with plenty of access to the internet, Wikipedia has replaced the public library and critical thinking is a thing of the past.

Cellphone = life

While for most of us having a cellphone is just a part of life, for kids it becomes their life line. Just the other day I was at a restaurant and saw a girl who could barely look over the table with a smartphone. Unless she is a youngest entrepreneur in the world, she has no need for a phone let alone a phone that can receive email. How often do you see kids texting someone or on the phone? Yes, I know times have changed but do you need to text your friend 24/7?

As I mentioned, I understand that times have changed, but that doesn’t mean you have to grow up too soon. Being a kid means not having to worry about ‘big people’ problems. Presently, it seems that the trend is that kids want to be adults now. Kids act like adults and even dress like adults and it seems that society is okay with it.

Businesses have also realized it and have taken full advantage of it. Companies now realize the spending power of these new consumers and have targeted them to great lengths. From issuing debit cards to young eager spenders, to setting up whole advertising campaigns like Blackberry’s for teens, companies don’t see kids, they see dollar signs.

Is it exploitation by companies to target kids in their campaigns? Maybe, but it was bound to happen. As soon as we started giving kids the power to be an adult through cellphones, computers and mature content on television, we turned them into powerful consumers with a false sense of a childhood. Technology is not a tool to kids, it is a toy. It is a toy that they don’t fully understand but can’t get enough of. As the saying goes:

Too much of a good thing can be bad for you.

It is our job to know when technology becomes ‘too much.’ If we don’t then how long does childhood last?


Photo by Wiseacre

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  • Reply ChriatiaanH April 21, 2009 at 3:20 am

    This is all so true, I’m waiting for the day that kids in kindergarten will be asked to turn off their cellphones and mp3 players.

    We’re living in a plugged world and it’s getting worse by the day.

    It’s all about the money, that’s all they care about. And what are the role models of today? let’s just say I saw this shirt in the kids department the other day, on it was a checklist:

    I want to be:

    on a shirt for 10 year olds?!?!

    It’s worrying…

    Gr, Christiaan

  • Reply Michael J April 21, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    I thought that I was the only one thinking it was wrong for a 22 year old to be dating a 16 year old. As a matter of fact (am I old here?) is 16 when kids start dating?

    Maybe I’ve forgotten. *sigh*

  • Reply Fanny Lawren April 21, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Thanks for writing this.

    Anything could be toy in children’s hands (screwdriver, paper, dirt, water, gun, etc.) It is adults’ job to guide them and protect them. Why would people assume the kids will 1) figure out themselves, 2) the right way AND, 3) quick enough?

    Children should take advantage of the technology to enrich their knowledge, stay connected with beloved… empower themselves. But more importantly, they need a strong foundation of value and disciplines. They could have cell phones, FB, or anything as long as they know what exactly they should (not could) be for and use them accordingly.

    I found many parents use technology as babysitter and teacher. That’s totally irresponsible. Don’t blame the technology polluting the young generation; blame the people who control the access and the content.

    Children using technology inappropriately (sometimes aka the adult way) doesn’t mean they grow up fast. It just means they grow up wrong.

    Too much of a good thing can be bad if one cannot handle it right. Prioritize, pace, scan, and monitor.

  • Reply Ashley April 22, 2009 at 12:23 am

    I really can’t even begin to imagine being a kid, parent or teacher today. When I was in school, their biggest concern was us bringing pogs and pokeymon cards to school. Now they have to worry about kids texting and talking in class, and playing with an endless list of distracting gadgets. It’s also weird to think how easy research must be for them. If I didn’t know a word, I had to look it up in an actual dictionary (not type it into and get a result in 5 seconds) and use real encyclopedias to do research instead of finding it online in 1 minute. It made learning a challenge, and when you found something it was so exciting because you had worked hard to find it.

    I knew it was over a couple of years ago when I asked my 7 year old niece what she wanted for christmas and she said ” an ipod or a laptop.” yikes!!
    (I will say though that if it wasn’t for technology, I would not have had one of my favorite games of childhood- Oregon Trail!

  • Reply Pat Montgomery April 22, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Very thought provoking post. Im too, am concerned about use of technology. On one hand, these kids will be able to do things and create things we have never conceived. They have access to much more information than we did at the library.

    On the other hand, as you pointed out, there are dangers. Sexting, predators, access to bad information (porn, bomb making, and more)are very scary. I also don’t like all the texting–I have a 13 yr old granddaughter who can’t write a correct sentence in an email–either spelling or grammar. Isn’t that going to have an impact on her?

    I believe it is up to parents to set and enforce rules. Their supervision here, like in other areas of life, is of paramount importance.

  • Reply Joseph Yi April 22, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    @ChriatiaanH — Thanks for the comment! It is hard to believe how fast kids want to be adults. Another great example of how kids are just adults in waiting: Bratz Dolls.

    @Michael J — I can’t believe that Disney wants to be associated with someone who promotes that kind of message. Then again it is a business.

    @Fanny Lawren — I totally can relate to what you are saying. Sometimes I just don’t understand why parents think that giving a cellphone to their child is a great way to keep them occupied. Ultimately it is the responsibility as a parent to make sure that you are regulating and keeping kids in check.

    @Ashley — I always love your comments and appreciate all your feedback! You are definitely one of my favorite bloggers. Your comment made me laugh cause I remember ALL those things. Oregon trail..Pogs…don’t forget Lincoln Logs and Legos! Being a kid was all about creativity and learning what you are good at. What does being good with a cellphone teach you and how does that help you be creative?

    @Pat Montgomery — You hit it right on the spot which is that there are dangers. When we were kids are parents had to be afraid of us getting snatched up by people offering us candy and by us being exposed to inappropriate language on TV. While the same threats exist, now parents need to worry about Cyber-Stalkers, Hackers, explicit content online and more. It is a sad result of how far technology has come.

  • Reply Bindu May 22, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    So darned true, and that’s why it still unsettles me when a mother hushes up her three year old baby and asks him to play with her cell phone or when you say, Ah, look at that cool video game to keep him from throwing tantrums whilst you’re feeding him.
    It has made the world more interlinked, but at the cost of a lot of things. A lot

    Peace out

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