​​​   James Smart's Philadelphia

Of All Things 

October 17, 2018
by James Smart

Youngsters playing with modern technology 
An organization that does this sort of thing made a study last year that found that children age eight and younger spend an average of 48 minutes a day using so-called mobile devices, up from 15 minutes in 2013.  And 42 percent of them now have information-receiving devices of their own, compared to only one percent in 2011.
          Another survey found that 47 percent of parents whose kids have their own devices worry that their children are addicted to them.
          This raises a few questions to an old guy like me. A question for those worried parents is, who gave the kids mobile phones or whatever? I can hear the answer that children often agitate to have a mobile phone because they see daddy and mommy using them. Or another answer is that children have to get used to using technology.
          I had mixed, or at least not well sorted, emotions when I learned that a member of the family who has just observed his second birthday, and can barely talk, can tap his finger on the screen of a mobile phone and select images
          A search on line found many companies offering such devices for children from pre-kindergarten to high school, putting them in touch with information of all sorts in quantities that make my poor old 20th century head spin.
          One advertised for children three and up has a seven-inch screen, and gives kids access to 15,000 apps and games, videos, books, and apps for such educational content as  PBS, Nickelodeon, Disney, and even Netflix and YouTube.  This marvel sells for 70 bucks. It requires $2.99 a month (though the first year is free.) That would be more than a day’s pay for a daddy making minimum wage in Philly.
          When I was a little sprat, the only electric device I knew how to turn on was the radio (unless you count electric light switches.) I could crank up the non-electric Victrola to play big 78 rpm records for my Grandpop.
          As I think about it now, those wind-up record players were marvels for him. He was born before such inventions as electric lights, radio, phonographs and even automobiles and airplanes, and he must have shook his head in wonder as I took them for granted.
          So pre-school kids now tap a tablet a few times to see pictures on the screen, in the same way that I opened a book and figured out how to read. They’ll be learning things and enjoying things from programs and apps in the same way I got information and pleasure from the books the family bought for me, and later from my father’s many books.
          One of the tablets designed for older children promises the on-screen availability of 15,000 books! How I would have loved that access when I was a boy.
          The providers of these devices offer them for children of all ages, from pre-school material through ABCs and arithmetic, all the way to up to high school level with literature and calculus. What will the ever-expanding technology of these devices be like by the time the little preschoolers using them now reach 12th grade?
          Which raises another question, as I consider a kid not long out of diapers using modern technology. What probably inconceivable device will he watch his great-grandson playing with some day?