One thing I keep hearing is how smartphones are somehow eroding the foundation of society here lately. Quite frankly I find that to be a load of poo.
Now don’t get me wrong – the massive companies that make these things would surely impregnate the case material of every phone made with highly addictive drugs that would leech into a persons body with use if they could possibly get away with it. Also too much of anything generally does have some negative effects on humans – responsible use of *fill in the blank* has to be taught especially to our little human cubs. In my opinion we tend to demonize things that are well… just annoying to us sometimes without really thinking about what is going on here. So here is my “glass half full” take…
When I was a wee sprout I used to get frustrated to the point of dismay because I could not read. Guess what – I was not frustrated by not being able to read War and Peace or a treatise on global nuclear proliferation. I was frustrated because I could not read the comic strips, comic books, words on the tv and little books my Mom ( and thank you for this Mom ) would read to me. Those things made me want to read and “want to read” is always good even if some snobbier folks would consider the material literary trash. Smartphones and tablets and computers rely heavily on guess what? READING! Yes there are videos and games but I guarantee that soon a child will desire the ability to read in order to understand what he has in his hand.
The reading leads to writing of course. I posit that “want to write” even if it is in some abbreviated, emoticon festooned pidgin english – is a very very good thing. Getting a kid to write a 1500 word essay at any age is gonna be hard but they will write a novel about the concert they are going to or who cheated on who using text or social media. The more they read the more they load the literary gun with vocabulary – and given the medium – succinct vocabulary is optimal. So a useful word found is likely to be a useful word used. Social media also tends to “grade” you in a way – if your latest post is misspelled gibberish you are most definitely gonna hear about it.
Fine Motor Skills
I have no clinical proof for this, and am not going to spend half a day collecting anecdotal evidence, but from watching my kids grow up with technology – am pretty darn certain that it helped develop their fine motor skills. Especially for my son who had essential tremors – the want to use technology probably has contributed directly to how well he learned to control and work with the condition. Our kids should have tactile building experiences – I do not believe that “building” and “making” real physical objects should ever be totally replaced. Face it their is literal joy and pride involved in holding and/or using a thing that you yourself have created. Then again “building” takes physical “stuff” so doing some virtual building/manipulation of virtual stuff on a device is a pretty good alternative given the all to common restraints of money, time and physical space these days.
When we communicate in person a lot is going on beside the utterance of the english language. We read tone, inflection, facial expression and other body language to infer the message communicated. When things are hammered flat to characters on a little screen – you bet your life the person on the other end is thinking hard about who you are, your situation and how you react to things. The one word response “cool” can mean “wow that is neat tell me more” or “ok got it shut the hell up about it now” depending on who is typing it. To derive that meaning you have to do quite a bit of thinking about the person, their interests, the situation, time of day…. a ton of stuff just to derive what that person meant by “cool”. In my opinion getting people to think of other people in this fashion might just build some empathy, tolerance or at the very least just cognitive skills. If you are oldish like me and started using text based communication mid-life you probably had more than one “sitting very still staring at your phone and biting your lip” moments and know what I am on about here.
Utility is the most obvious reason not to demonize this technology. A few years back I had to run out for something and something about work was mentioned and I remember saying for the first time – “No worries I have my office in my pocket.” Given my job is pretty much all to do with the internet I realized then that I could perform at least 80% of any tasks I needed to get done from my phone in a pinch. Now in 2016 that is closer to 95% – I can even take over a client computer and remotely operate it from my phone and now that the screen size is much bigger do so without much squinting. Working from a phone is still not an optimal, efficient or comfortable endeavor but it can be done and it gives me much more mobility and improves my response time incredibly. Beside work I have access to things that are the stuff of dreams I had as a young man – no more always breaking wristwatches, GPS in my pocket, a compass, the weather, shopping, instant information on whatever pops into my head – holy crap I have just reminded myself how absolutely amazing that is! lol amadork…
Last, but very not least, Safety
Last night storms raged through Oklahoma and my wife asked me “Do the tornado sirens wake you up?” and I replied without even thinking about it “No but don’t worry the phone does.” The gravity of that hit me this morning upon seeing another post deriding kids and those darn phones on facebook and actually fathered this writing effort. It is time to shut up and accept and incorporate this technology into what we think of as normal life. “Neat to have” has firmly gone to “save your life” – not something anyone should really be discouraging. I do not want and will not have my kids running around without a phone – my mindset has totally changed on that. Now that I really think about it there are so many bad situations having a phone can get you out of – hard to believe I once considered kids with phones “spoiled”- now I am starting to think they may be “deprived”.
So in conclusion I guess what I hope to see is less complaining and more accepting and with accepting – teaching and learning. I guess what I want very often comes down to those two things. Let’s squeeze every bit of innovation out of the phone and make our lives the better for it. 😉