Why My Kids Won't Get Computers
Mayka Mei '06
At my first job, I banned a girl from Meez.com (a teen site) because of a YouTube video. It wasn’t like she recorded herself going on a paparazzi-primed tirade of expletives. She didn’t even share her video on our network. Her intentions were quite kind, actually. She liked our product a lot, so she took it upon herself to make a “commercial” for my company.
While flattering, it wasn’t the sentiment that turned me off. It was she. She was a girl. Paraphrasing: “I love this site, you should join! They kicked me off once before because I’m under age, but I changed my birthday and rejoined. Add me!
Even without her monologue, I had already gleaned a great deal from her video: the rumpled bed sheets, the pink and purple décor, the baby fat she hadn’t yet lost – so adorable! How endearing! But when she admitted to being younger than our required age, it all became more pronounced: this was a kid who didn’t make her bed, her palette choice was literally childish – she hadn’t even lost her baby fat!
Everything else fell into place: This girl has access to her own laptop. She makes YouTube videos on a whim. Her parents have no idea she’s falsifying her age to use social networks. The spiral kept spiraling. Laptops! YouTube! Kids surfing the net on their own! Danger! High voltage!
I have no idea exactly what technology will be out there when I have kids, but I can tell you I’m terrified of how essential my future child thinks it is.
I wasn’t even coupled up then, and I’m not even expecting now, but it was at that moment when I consciously decided: My kids don’t get computers. They’ll be working on a family computer until they leave the house. Definitely no laptops allowed in their bedrooms. No mobile phones until high school. Let’s be frank: I have no idea exactly what technology will be out there when I have kids, but I can tell you I’m terrified of how essential my future child thinks it is.
Hyperbolic, yes, but thinking about the swift pace of kids’ and teens’ tech adoption sends my anxiety into orbit. I justify my own tech addictions with the distinction that I grew up when all of this was popping up (and that I work in it now). Even though my childhood always included a home computer, at least I experienced some transitions from analog into digital. My typing class was taught on typewriters and I didn’t have my own personal cell phone until my first year at Santa Clara.
Conversely, there’s my twenty-something coworker who begged her parents for a BlackBerry when she entered middle school. I literally asked her to sit down with our engineers to teach them all the unexplained SnapChat features that arrest so many teens’ and young adults’ attention. We may be onto it now, thanks to her, but she’s in it all the time.
There are an untold amount of connections to be made out there in the World Wide Web, and I am confident that my future little whippersnappers will find all of them a lot faster than I will.
Thanks to truly intuitive design, nothing needs to be explained to the young. How many toddlers have you seen calm down once you hand ’em a touchscreen mobile device? This stuff is like water to them. So where are my future children going to be when they reach ten years old? Will they be sneaking around filming 3D videos from their smartrings while Mom is off adding new features to yet another next-level social media app? There are an untold amount of connections to be made out there in the World Wide Web, and I am confident that my future little whippersnappers will find all of them a lot faster than I will.
I feel obligated to give my kids an analog youth so they know what a square one feels like. Fittingly, the best non-tech start for kids was summarized by Wired in 2011 – and it still holds up today! Here you go, Kids of Mine That Don’t Exist Yet, your future Christmas list:
- Cardboard Tube
Of course I’ll be delighted if my kids get into tech, whether they’re curious about how to code it, how to build it, how to design it, or simply how to use it. But first, I want their fingers to be chalky, their clothes to get dirty, and for them to be confused by all the things that stand at their height. They need to stub their toes kicking a few rocks before I ever start letting them play in the virtual frontier.