Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Technology and the Preschooler

A million years ago, when I was just a young girl, the idea of having a phone that you traveled outside of the kitchen with was purely science fiction. The idea that you could drive down the road talking on the phone was almost ludicrous.

Who would want to be tethered down like that? Who would want to be available to anyone, anytime, anywhere?

Our family would take road trips without a thought of whether we could be contacted or not, without a care of what we would do if we were to break down, or how we would be able to stay in touch with the rest of our lives.

As I aged, my fascination with phones (like most young girls) grew. My friends that had cordless phones, call waiting or caller ID seemed rich, untouchable. Our phone remained heavily monitored and in the kitchen, connected to the wall, next to the sink. In our six person household, there was no call waiting, no caller ID and definitely no child line.

I remember the first person that we ever knew that had a phone in their car. He drove a Corvette and sold my dad drugs from time to time. It was housed in a giant "briefcase"-like bag and the receiver was still corded to the bag, making it extremely difficult to talk on while driving. He had approximately 15 minutes of battery life when it was charged in fully. About a year after getting his car phone, he added a answering machine (installed in his dash) so that he would not miss calls while he was at work or at home. My family often joked about the idea of an answering machine in your car, it seemed outlandish that you would want people to be able to connect with you all of the time.

Three months after I graduated high school, I got a beeper. Mostly, I got it just because I could (I had extra cash, a hole in my pocket and good credit), but also as a sort of rebellion from my parents. I hid it away from them because I feared the judgement that I would receive for having this type of technology. It was handy, especially in the late evenings, as my household had a very strictly enforced "no calls after 9" rule (even for those of who were in college full-time and working almost full-time). I would get a page, sneak the (still corded) receiver into my bedroom and talk until the wee hours of the morning with my then boyfriend, Hubs.

About six months after getting the beeper, I got a cell phone. It was a brick, solidly constructed, there were no bells and whistles - one ring tone, bright orange numbers to display the number that you had dialed, it did have a "flip", (if you could call it that) a grey piece of plastic that covered the (unlocking) buttons from being pushed while the phone was in your purse, pocket or backpack. No games, internet or texting. It was extremely heavy and would grow hot the longer that you used it. Additionally, the battery had a very short "life" and would have to be replaced every 6 months or so.

As I have continued to age, technology has made phones lighter and capable of doing more and more things. The idea of leaving home without your phone is ridiculous. The thought of going out of town without constant communication with our friends and families seems insane. There are apps that allow people to track your every movement, your every breath, your every thought. We have relinquished our privacy to the idea of community that we really seldom ever have.

What scares me is that my child will never know a time that it is not normal to text a friend instead of talking to them, that she will have relationships with people that she has only met virtually, that as our parameters expand more and more into this virtual world we are losing essential qualities of human contact.

My daughter and I have never met a stranger. We will strike up conversations with anyone, anytime, anywhere. It's one of her most charming qualities, that she breaks out of the norm of preschooler and is brave enough to introduce herself to everyone. I am worried that in this fast paced world, she will lose the desire to make human contact, that she will find herself more comfortable in the anonymity of this virtual space and impose more importance on the technology than the quality.

Any ideas on what we can do as moms to encourage personal relationships rather than virtual ones?


  1. I hope that Z never loses that part of her personality. It's one of the best parts of her. Just like her momma. I love you. Hubs.

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  3. Your fears are real. I've noticed the lost art of conversation amongst the teens. They just don't know how to talk. My advice: No cell phones allowed at get-togethers, slumber parties, dinners, etc. When there's someone next to you, talk to them. (Seriously, my teen had a friend over, the two of them sitting side by side, both texting people who weren't there. What?!) Also, she'll be influenced mostly by what she SEES. Keep up the good art of conversation, Mom!


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