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Your Smart Device is Making You Weird: Digital Youth

Here we are with another installment of ‘Your Smart Device is Making you Weird’ where I bring you my observations on the subtle changes in people and society as a result of Convenience Technology:  Tablets, Phones, and Pads.

joebowman.scienceblog.com – If you want to know what the future holds for a given population you need only observe their children. Where as you or I have grown into and adopted convenience technology as we have moved through life, those of us born in more recent years will have had cellular phones and various technological implements thrust at them starting from early ages.  Some could say this is ‘lazy parenting’ while others (parents) would extol the virtues of devices that not only connects them to the world but placates children as well.  Regardless, it is something not entirely minor that separates these generations and those that came before.

In my last segment on ‘Your Smart Device is Making you Weird’ I wondered about a young family I saw in passing with each member gazing into their own device.  One of the family members was a young child of about 2-4 years of age who was hypnotized by the glowing screen of a mobile phone.

What was not apparent to me at the time was the fact that this scenario is not unique, in fact quite the opposite seems to be true the more I pay attention.  And, if it is happening in my sleepy suburban town (Pleasant Hill, CA) it is surely happening in many more places. You may have even seen this yourself as you observe children with their parents in public or even at your own family gatherings.  The scene is always the same, the children are surprisingly quiet and well behaved as they cradle a mobile device in their tiny hands.

I took the elevator from the parking garage on the way to work trying to compensate for being late by quickly scanning emails and text messages.  A woman entered just behind me and and smiled broadly remarking that her husband loves his iPad (mine is actually a Samsung Galaxy Tab).  Sensing my opportunity to gain additional perspective I mentioned the trend of young children on devices. The woman (a mother of a young child as it turned out) proudly let me know that her child had their own mobile WiFi only device.  Not noticing the bemused expression on my face the woman went about her way. I spent some time afterwards looking at statistics wondering about the woman and her tech savvy child.

The accompanying chart shows usage statistics by age group using data collected in 2010.  I recreated the chart in Excel using some conditional highlighting rules to show how the data trends as users grow into adulthood.  Note the green arrows showing the high values.

Regardless of whether you view children using technology as a good or bad omen for the future one thing stands out: not only are children spending ever increasing amounts of time using technology, they are doing so at increasingly younger ages.

The thing that keeps going through my head is the fact that you can’t gain or change something without giving up or changing something else in return.

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