Teens, tech and tides of history: new gadgets can be hard to swallow
Humans seem to take very well to inventions that simply make everyday life easier and more convenient – the light bulb, the flush toilet and sliced bread, for instance. However, inventions that alter the way we communicate and entertain ourselves seem harder for our species to swallow gracefully.
“Radio is a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonesome” - T.S. Eliot*, a student of alienation, declared in the early days of the wireless. This impulse that new is worse, when combined with the eternal concern about “kids today”, goes far in explaining why grown-ups worry so much about the weird things kids today do with technological gadgets and gizmos.
As Eliot imagined that listening to songs and gags at home instead of in theaters, pubs and parks would be a sad, isolating escapade, I can’t see how a virtual community can be a real community; how chatting with someone online is like hanging out with a neighbor, or how “IMing” is meaningful communication. I can’t believe that reality television, video games or the search for the coolest ring tone are proper substitutes for, well, anything.
In today’s society, teens are inundated with gadgets. Most teenagers would probably admit their days are filled with text messaging friends, talking on their cell phones, playing electronic games, listening to MP3 players, blogging on MySpace, watching television, surfing the Internet or doing any number of other activities involving media technology. Unfortunately, most of these electronic activities increase teens’ individualistic behavior by lessening their opportunity to have face-to-face relationship building time.
Some parents feel they cannot limit their child’s use of electronic gadgets for many reasons. Perhaps the electronic device is being used to keep track of a teen’s whereabouts, the item was a gift, the teen bought the gadget himself or parents say they feel hypocritical because they are modeling the very behavior they’re asking their kids to stop doing. Still, these technological concerns should not hinder a parent from helping their child socialize and participate in outdoor activities when it comes to media madness.
I have a large measure of confidence that future archeologists and historians will conclude that innovations such as a code-speak called “Instant Messaging”, or a music box called “iPod” or a makebelieve room called “MySpace” inexorably set us on a path of alienation and individualism.
*American-English poet (1888-1965), awarded the 1948 Nobel Prize in Literature.
DICK MEYER www.cbsnews.com
The author mentions the feeling of hypocrisy experienced by parents towards their kids under some circumstances. Such a feeling derives from: