Each day new technical advances provide us with opportunities and gadgets that delight or alarm us. The younger generation may be more comfortable with technology because they’ve known nothing else, while others may view devices as an intrusion. Buzz Staff Writer Andy Blitzer and college freshman/Buzz summer intern Caroline Matthews reveal their perspectives on the effects of technology.
Technology: For better or for worse
Technology is here to stay. But so is the human race, I hope. A scary thought is one that involves people going about their day totally dependent on machines and computerized devices, devoid of emotion or their own rational thoughts. Sounds like something George Orwell would have written.
I have to admit, I’m impressed with the skills kids have today. However, while kids can do things I could not have fathomed when I was younger, other skills are fading somewhat. It’s up to us to hone the new attributes of kids today, while helping to preserve those treasured ones from yesteryear.
One big positive for me is that I don’t need to read those confusing manuals anymore. Kids today are happy to load songs on that new iPod or program the most obnoxious of cell phone rings, so all I have to learn is the whereabouts of the “On” and “Off” buttons.
Some believe today’s kids are more connected to their world. Others argue that kids are experiencing the age of disconnect. They are at peace with their laptop (and can easily prepare a superb Power Point presentation), but can they stand up and face their peers with a persuasive argument without the bells and whistles?
One thing’s for sure, we are definitely not becoming less intelligent from our excessive technology use. The job market is expanding to accommodate the growth in technology. Publications and retail companies are moving to the Internet, and new Web sites are being created everyday. We as consumers will always demand something better, something faster, something more creative. It’s up to us teens to lead the way in discovering how to supply that demand.
On the plus side, I am easily connected with everyone I know or would like to know. I’ve found and rekindled friendships with long lost elementary school classmates by simply typing their names into the Facebook database, a Myspace-like site for college students. But, then again, is almost stalking someone and sending a few messages back and forth really considered a friendship? Are friends people you talk on the phone with all the time or people you actually see all the time?
Has technology killed etiquette?
Despite what some adults say, there are many kids today who are articulate, worldly, caring, and polite. There are certainly exceptions to this, but I bet that was the case 50 years ago, too. Kids have had to leave behind some carefree experiences that those from my youth were privileged to enjoy as a rite of passage. It’s not like they can play outside until the street lights come on without calling in to give their exact coordinates every half hour.
At one time, people had more time for face to face interaction, and naturally were more concerned with rules of polite etiquette. Now, with technology, we find it easier to speak more brazenly to someone on the phone than face to face, and an e-mail allows even less human connection. Something we’ve all experienced is rolling off a hurried e-mail, hitting “Send,” and wishing seconds later that we could fly into cyberspace to retrieve it. I’ve learned to read my e-mails completely before sending them, and most times, find myself rearranging a phrase here and there to make myself sound less robotic.
But even the warmest e-mail can’t replace a handwritten letter. Making it an expectation for kids to write a handwritten letter or thank you note for a change, instead of always sending an e-mail, preserves a skill that may otherwise fall by the wayside—the ability to write legibly. Taking pride in penmanship was once emphasized, and there’s still something to be said for being able to hand in a job application, for example, in crisp, neat handwriting.
As for never-out-of-style etiquette—one pet peeve is having to listen to someone on a cell phone at a restaurant or as they push a cart around the grocery store. I’m not eavesdropping, but it’s kind of hard not to hear the details when they are being broadcasted. How can adults expect kids to model etiquette when parents are too busy yapping on their cell phones or typing an e-mail?
It freaks me out to think that we are no longer a society of privacy. There’s no such thing as cell phone etiquette anymore—we blab on our phones in doctor’s offices, in libraries, and with our best friends on first dates. We look up directions at the click of a button or punch a few things into a GPS system. Everything is literally at our fingertips, waiting to be discovered—sometimes by the wrong person.
It’s one thing to post on Myspace that you live in Houston, Texas. It’s another to say: “Yo yo yo! I’m John Smith from H-town. 713! Memorial High School Class of 2009, represent!” Google a search and, bingo, some weirdo has your home address, telephone number, and sometimes a cell number. Scary.
Because we are more dependent on technology, we’ve learned to feel safe on the Web. Even so, the Internet, in my opinion, is one of man’s greatest accomplishments: an infinite source of information to explore and learn from.
I have to agree, technology has changed etiquette. How to properly thank someone is one example. There are even new rules in the dating game: although it’s still customary for the guy to call the girl after their first date, now the girl can slip a hint of emotion by sending a casual text message. Are personal connections being lost to technology? It’s a torn issue. Maybe they are fading a little, but I think the good far outweighs the bad. A polite and friendly e-mail is just as good as a handwritten thank you note or letter. Yes, e-mails are less personal, but they are the modern connection between children and grandparents, friends who’ve moved away, and even their distant pen pals from Russia.
Has technology really changed everything?
Despite the age of technology, kids will be kids. Sounds like a sound bite for Toys “R” Us, but a recent conversation with River Oaks Baptist Principal Judy Adams confirmed it for me. Judy recalled the summers of her youth—playing hide-and-seek, catching fireflies, riding her bicycle, and being in charge of her own transportation. However, as a principal and mother of two grown sons, she’s had ample opportunities to observe kids. Judy believes kids have not changed as much as we believe. “I still see lemonade stands in the neighborhood. Kids’ imaginations still allow them to play and be creative and have the same thrills in childhood as we had.”
The technology age is also the lawsuit age, and most wouldn’t risk letting a kid rake a leaf on their lawn, let alone cut their grass. Adults expect kids to be vigilant about money and expenses, but don’t always provide opportunities for them to gain independence. If your kid is a computer whiz, employ them to upgrade the family’s computers or teach you how to use that new tax program. Washing the car or dinner dishes are other simple ways kids can learn and earn at the same time, without technology. No matter how sophisticated kids may seem, they’ll get a thrill from depositing their earnings in their own savings account and will be less hasty to withdraw them to buy frivolities.
We teenagers take most things for granted, including how we center our lives around the devices that we seemingly cannot live without. I have had friends complain in the past that they couldn’t exercise one day because their iPod was broken.
The global dependence on technology has affected things in my life that I wouldn’t have expected, like getting into college. There was no exciting dash to the mailbox or jumping up and down while opening the envelope. The e-mail’s subject line said it all: “Good News from Elon!” This supposedly emotional and pivotal moment in my life was suppressed by our dependence on technology.
Although our dependence hasn’t changed everything, it’s sure changed a lot. Obesity is well on its way to surpassing smoking as the number one preventable cause of death. What does this have to do with technology? Ask any kid what their favorite activity is, and more than half will declare that is involves a television, computer, or gadget. Ask any kid what their favorite food is, and you won’t be shocked to hear that it’s probably junk food. Link them together, and you’ve got a nation of technically savvy kids, who are also highly inactive.
Technology has its limits
A good rule of thumb may be to shoot for using technology in moderation and taking a break once in a while. It’s up to adults to get kids out, away from their computers and video games. This may involve getting off our computers and our cell phones, too. We can all agree that no device can replace time with those you love. Invite your friends over and model some good old-fashioned conversation that doesn’t involve MySpace. It seems that we have a lot to teach kids and they have a lot to teach us. How cool is that?