Our guest blog today comes from Evie Prysor-Jones, who we met a few weeks ago at City University. As her MA in Publishing Studies at City University comes to an end, Evie (@Evelyn_PJ) is trying to spend less time reading young adult fiction and more time actually studying. She is a frequent tweeter, blogger and ponderer of the world at large and is pursuing a career in children’s publishing.
I was once told the Internet was in my blood. This thought terrified me not only because it reminded me of some twisted Charlie Brooker program, but it also seemed like an awful responsibility. If the Internet is in my blood surely I should know everything, know how to do everything, and have a built-in navigation system in my brain. My frequent wanderings around London have disproved that theory at least.
This comment, that I’m sure was meant to be off-hand and not designed to instigate a tirade of panicked thought, got me thinking about how much digital technology is in my life now. I have a smart phone, tablet, eBook reader and a laptop, and I NEED them all.
Sure, they look clever, but can they change a light bulb?
Most people of my age can swipe, type and discover things with alarming precision and speed. But I’m starting to worry this efficiency is wiping our common sense.
For example; recently my friend and I were on one of our many London strolls (due to our lack of inbuilt Google Maps) and decided the cold was too much for our shivering bones and we would get a taxi. She fumbled with her freezing fingers for the ingenious app on her smart phone that could tell her where the nearest black cab was. While she was tapping, I did something crazy – I stuck out my arm. It is getting to the stage where we expect technology to do everything for us, and when it doesn’t, we’re left stranded in the foolish position of realising the shortest route from A to B did not require a “slide to unlock.”
If this is happening to people of my age now, people who do actually remember a time before the Internet and mobile phones, then what is going to happen to those being born into it? In Hanna Rosin’s article The Touch-Screen Generation, she calls people like me ‘digital natives’. We pick up how to use technology very quickly because we’ve grown up with it to some extent. On the other side of the spectrum are ‘digital immigrants,’ who are coming into the swipe-and-tap world as complete strangers. But I am only the first generation of digital natives and I’m starting to worry that as time goes on, the next digital natives are going to be more digital than human.
Children are incredibly fast at picking up how to use things. Show a child once and suddenly they are swiping and tapping their way to taking over the world. Whilst I don’t believe digital means the end of books, and certainly think children can have just as much fun making mud pies outside, there is no point denying that digital is here to stay. And it’s us, the current generation of adults that are responsible for what digital products these techy toddlers are getting access to. It is our responsibility to create products which encourage children to do something creative.
Wonderful products like the Toca Boca digital toys (I especially like the Toca Boca Tea Party app), and websites like Hot Key’s own Story Adventure encourage children to use digital platforms to create their own entertainment. They get to have fun, they get to play and they get to access exciting content in brand new ways. It gets them thinking, inventing and most importantly, using their imaginations. This is critical, because if we expect the next few generations to solve problems and handle chaos, we better make sure they know how to think for themselves.
Creative thought is a survival skill in today’s society. I still stand by the belief that the best way to ensure we remain human is through a combination of playing with new technology, spending time with people and being chucked outside to make mud pies. Being a ‘digital native’ doesn’t necessarily mean you are just ‘digital’. You can have a million devices and still be a creative individual too. Perhaps having the Internet in your blood is too exclusive, but having technology at your fingertips is nothing to fear, you just need to think about it.