We just watched the Apple keynote about a week ago and Wayne and I have the same conversation every single time.
Immediately before: “We probably don’t need any upgrades. Our technology is fine just the way it is. We can put off getting anything new for another year easily.”
Immediately after: “Let’s do the math and see if we can afford xyz item because that is just so much better than what we have right now.”
We do our best to make smart purchases with our technology. Wayne tends to gravitate towards “OMG the NEW THING!” and I’m more “Ugh, everything is so expensive!” so we end up meeting somewhere in the middle. What we will not do is buy a product of inferior quality to get by. We both agree it’s a waste of money and would rather go a little longer without something than have a product in the interim that isn’t going to live up to our standards. By and large, anything that we get needs to be able to last for a long time.
And to be fair, we do use the tech that we buy.
We run small businesses as well as have traditional jobs. My phone is new. We do that thing where you basically rent the phone from Apple and can get an upgrade whenever they come out with a new model.
I use Instagram for most of my Geekasaurus outreach and Facebook for participating in writing groups and I often have to use my phone to do these things as they come up. I’m not tied to my home office, like, ever. My computer is a refurbished 27 inch Mac from 2013 with AppleCare. It’s the nicest and biggest computer I’ve ever owned and I know I’ll be using it for years and years. A lot of the website work happens on the computer when Alice is asleep or with someone else.
My iPad is refurbished as well and has been instrumental in creating Geekasaurus. I can’t watch Alice and draw the comic at the same time without it. I have an AppleWatch, and with the latest update, we’ve been playing with the Walkie-Talkie feature to communicate quickly while we’re in different locations. He just asked me to send him a link to buy primed canvas while at work 4 miles away. I also track my steps and use the heart-rate monitor to help identify panic attacks.
We’re an Apple family; just in case you couldn’t tell. But I wasn’t always like this.
About 7 years ago, I stopped using technology for a whole year. I know, right? That’s nuts! Up until then, I was decently tech literate. I could troubleshoot and fix my own computer most of the time. I didn’t have the latest stuff but I was informed. I had to get a new laptop every year or two because I never had the money to buy a better quality computer. The machines always seemed to fail just after my warranty ran out and I could choose to spend $400 fixing it, or $400 on a new one. I understood social media, mostly. And then, due to personal problems that I won’t get into right now, I spent a year tech-free. When I came back into the world, I was so far behind that I’m STILL behind. Not only that, but the learning curve is much more difficult. Technology changes fast; so fast that I think we sometimes take for granted just how fast new and amazing things are being developed every single day.
Enter the now-husband (then friend) 5 years ago; robotics teacher and full on self-taught tech dude extraordinaire! He bought the latest everything – phone, computer, watch, video game system, camera, smart home devices, projectors, and robots. He understood how they worked and could make things talk to other things! (I am still amazed by this.) I had never been super into technology like my husband is, but I realized, after asking him to explain how stuff works a bazillion times, that my year off from technology was probably not the best choice. I mean, I needed to do it, but also, maybe I took it a little too far.
Wayne taught me how to use an iPhone. Where I lived before, no one had an iPhone because you couldn’t get service so it was a huge waste of money. He taught me how to use apps, how the newest social media worked, he taught me how to use WordPress to build a website and how to use Illustrator and Photoshop (so much had changed in Photoshop since I had used it last that I basically had to start from scratch.) I now know how to (sometimes) control the smart devices we have in the house and how to turn my hand drawings into vectors.
Because of all of this extra hands-on tutoring, my husband and I are able to do freelance website and logo design. I’m able to put my comic online every week and get it seen by potentially ALL the people (another thing I’m amazed by.) I’ve started to learn how to code basic HTML and I now know how a 3D printer works.
But what does this mean for our household and our parenting style?
Won’t my kid be spoiled from too much screen time? Won’t she enter into dangerous territory online where bullying and predators run rampant? What if she becomes isolated? What if she loses her interest in running around/learning/dancing/whatever-ing? I’ve had so many “what if” worries about technology that it’s maddening.
It’s easy to let the worry consume you. It’s easy, as a parent, to allow those fears to dictate what our children will and will not do. I did it while I was pregnant. I was determined that Alice wouldn’t watch television until she was 4 or 5. She’d never see me on my phone or tablet or my husband working on the computer. We’d make sure that she loved books and learning and exploring more than any technology. She’d have normal, non-electronic toys to play with. Yadda-yadda-yadda.
None of that happened.
Alice loves Sesame Street, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and Puppy Dog Pals. She plays with my phone, tablet, and smartwatch. Wayne was making a simple video game for her in Scratch to play on his laptop. She knows that Alexa controls the lights and the music.
I had to accept that we live in a technological world. That’s not a comment on anything; it’s just a fact. We, as parents, can choose to participate or not participate as we see fit; but in our household, we’ve already chosen to participate in the technological future. Alice is going to see both of her parents doing things every day that involve technology. I have comics to make and logos to draw. Wayne has robots to program and presentations to create. We both have websites to build. If we want to participate in a modern global society, we all need to have some semblance of technological knowledge. Alice is going to need even more knowledge than I have now.
We’ve spent a long time talking about our parenting expectations and I’ve realized that we’re decently prepared to navigate this. Wayne teaches his students how to be good digital citizens. It’s actually a class that I think a lot of adults could benefit from. He also teaches parents, librarians, and educators about the latest apps and technologies that children are using and how to talk to the children in their lives about these programs without judgment or fear; the goal is to open lines of communication so that the child isn’t afraid to reach out when they need help.
You can’t get a job today without having a basic knowledge of computers. Even my father-in-law at age sixty-nine, with his part-time job delivering auto parts, has to know how to use a computer. They took the time to teach him at work and every time the system changes, they make sure he understands what’s what. My eighty-five-year-old Mémè joined Facebook so that she could keep in touch with her grandkids and her great-grandkids. She sometimes even checks on this comic. (Hi, Mémè!)
It’s a tricky subject to navigate, and everyone has to do what works best for their individual families. I do think that sometimes we, as parents, allow our fears and worries to control some of those parenting decisions. I met a parent once, in passing, who won’t let her children learn to type until they are much, much older; ideally in high school or college. All of their papers have to be written in cursive until then. They won’t have cell phones, tablets, and they don’t use computers. All of their research is done at the library using books.
When I heard this I nodded along, but my mind began spinning with all the possible things that her children are missing out on.
They don’t know how to send an email. They don’t have the skills to fill out an online application or send a text message. They won’t learn how to use the internet, navigate social media, or use databases to search for empirical articles until … who knows? College? They won’t be prepared for the modern working world and they definitely won’t be prepared for higher education if they aren’t allowed to use technology until adulthood.
Kids today are learning to code in school because more and more jobs require an understanding of basic coding. Applications are filled out online – you can’t really go into a company and ask for a paper application anymore. Advertising and brand building are reliant on social media. And who knows? In five years the whole system could be drastically different than it is now.
Don’t get me wrong, cursive is great. I write in cursive. I suppose my kid will have to learn how to read it because otherwise, she’ll never know what the heck I’m writing down. I still know how to use a card catalog and how to navigate the Dewey Decimal System. I read books on paper and have an extensive library. I still prefer to create art by hand with actual paint than with digital paint.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t learn how to do things sans modern technology. What I’m saying is life is a balance. Alice needs to learn how to write by hand and type. She’ll read paper books and from a Kindle. I’d love to teach her how to draw something with a pencil and then show her how to scan it into the computer and turn it into a vector for her future website.
And I’m secretly hoping that she becomes a world-class professional video gamer. Or an astronaut. Or a video gaming astronaut.
To see if Alice turns into a video gaming astronaut, follow Kali on Instagram (@simply_kali)
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