Today, digital media technology’s effect on children is decidedly negative. Overall, children are far more sedentary and passive than they would be without it. They’re far less likely to engage in face-to-face communications, so their real-world social skills are suffering.
In short, before I came to fully understand where this technology was going, I would have taken my kids back to the “Leave it to Beaver” days if I could have.
Now that I see the what lies ahead so clearly, I can’t wait for the future. The future of digital media technology looks very bright for kids. This realization came together in my mind when I watched Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ recent presentation at the Apple Worldwide Developers’ Conference.
Fundamentally, Jobs delivered the message that the personal computer will no longer be the central hub of all digital media activities. Digital media will be much more mobile in the future. Instead of sitting inside a family room or office, we’ll be much more likely to be out and about, doing things in the real world as we consume digital media. The multiple devices we use will access much of their data via “the cloud.”
In other words, our devices will go where we want to go, rather than tethering us down. As it turns out, most of us would often choose to be out in the world rather than sitting behind a desk or on a couch.
I’ll take Jobs’ message a step further and say that GPS (Global Positioning System) chips, embedded in all these devices, will revolutionize our experience with the real world. Instead of being zombies who have no awareness of our immediate surroundings, as we frequently are these days when we use mobile devices, GPS-based applications will make us hyper-aware of our immediate surroundings. When we use these GPS-based applications, we’ll interact more with the real world than we would with no device in hand, not less.
So, how will this digital media technology trend affect kids? As highly adaptive technology consumers with a lot of energy, they’ll lead the way to this brave new world. Adults are more set in their ways, so millions of them will continue to sit at desks behind desktop computers in the coming decade. Free of the baggage of decades-old work habits and entertainment consumption habits, kids will be more likely to interact with digital media on the go.
For some kids, the real world will replace virtual worlds as their “game board.” For others, the real world will be woven together with virtual worlds.
One thing is certain: In a decade or less, we’ll no longer be able to blame digital media technology for making kids sedentary, passive, and unaware of the world around them. The real world will make a big comeback in kids’ lives because of profound changes in this technology.
Interestingly, all this means that parents should encourage their kids to be on the bleeding edge of digital media technology trends. The future can’t get here fast enough. I can’t wait!