The future is not going to go back to into the past.
The pace of advancement of technology is not going to slow down anytime sooner.
In his famous article “Software eats the world” which turned out to be quite prophetic, Marc Andreesesen, creator of Netscape browser, catalyst of internet era, predicted that more and more physical world services and goods will turn digital as the technology progresses.
Think of anything that you do daily. There is tremendous amount of digital technology behind it. Some of them are tangible, like Google Maps, Email, WhatsApp, smartphones, computers, TVs and pictures that you use daily. Some are not tangible to you. But, the food you buy at super market, the flight you take, the news you read and full body health check-ups are only possible because of the advent progress of digital technology behind them.
The role technology plays in every field is accelerating with aggressive adoption of machine learning, artificial intelligence and smart and IOT enabled devices.
Vast majority of parents and educators today in India started their life in pre-computer, pre-internet era. Their education was based on text books, hearsay and parent’s wisdom. They saw the arrival of TVs. Arrival of cable TV. Arrival of computers. Arrival of internet. Arrival of smartphones.
Remember the hue and cry when TVs first made it to homes and Doordarshan introduced Chitrahaar and Sunday movies? A lot of parents thought that was going to spoil their kids and was going to affect their young minds.
Then came the cable TV with MTV to Zee TV to breaking news, TV became a 24/7 phenomenon and once again parents and educators struggled how to live with this phenomenon to regulate the TV time for children. Today in any household, there are hardly any TVs that are not turned on. They have become part of our lives.
Computers were lucky. Initially they were tools for coding and were revered. Then they were connected to the internet. Internet opened a world of unlimited online gaming to comics to music to movies. Once again, there was a huge resistance in allowing kids to browse internet. Today, a laptop or a desktop connected to internet is an essential in any household and nobody can imagine not letting children use a computer.
When we look back, whenever there was new wave of technology, the generation that was comfortable with the past technology was always apprehensive of the modern technology. But the new generation figured out a way to harness it and to live with it and to invent the next set of tools using it.
Today we are living in a smartphone era. Almost everything that we used to do on computers 10 years ago is now done on smartphones. The current generation of kids are going to start learning, communication, creative expression, media consumption on a smart and mobile device. They are our mobile first kids.
Just like every technology wave that came in the past, mobile comes with a good side and a bad side. The bad side is - addiction, lack of tactile experiences, being exposed to bad content, less playtime and missing on interpersonal skills. The upside is that the best of the best educators around the world are curating and creating educational content for kids to learn and explore on their own. There are thousands of amazing learning tools, millions of how to do videos and hundreds of millions of kids are online around the world to form groups, develop interests and create amazing stuff that was not possible just a decade ago.
Once again, parents, educators and society in general has widely diverse views on whether kids should allow to use an iPad or a Smartphone. Irrespective of our views and apprehensions, the kids have already embraced these devices.
It is their tool to build their future and the future is only getting more digital and more technologically advanced.
Good news is, there are several best practices that can be easily implemented both at school and at home. Government agencies, NGOs and peer funded focus groups all over the world are studying the impact of mobile in a child's life and are coming with simple guidelines to mitigate the negative effects and to make the best use of it.
As good guardians it’s our job to educate ourselves and to educate our children about how to use these devices with discipline and structure. One day, which is not too far, they will in turn educate us about the new wonderful possibilities.