I overheard someone talking a few days ago saying that we are heading for an internet and social media backlash. That it will have its day and we will all come off our devices and head back into the real world before long. Connect with people face to face and explore the countryside with an OS map tucked into a waterproof wallet. Put to one side an era where online communication feels as though it is overtaking offline conversation. Where socialising is reportedly down by 25 minutes a day. I confess that in many ways this would be lovely. A world where we just switched off for a while is certainly an appealing one, but I don’t think that having complete abstinence from the internet and electronic devices is the right idea either.
The internet may have enabled a plethora of social media sites to evolve and take time and attention away from pen to paper communication, telephone usage or face to face coffee breaks, but think about what else it has supported. We can get up to date news and weather at the click of a button. We can research and read areas of special interest, plan days out including the route with timely travel information. We can become involved with a community through our devices at any hour of any day. Yes, the pressure is there, but so is the support, you just need to look in the right places.
The internet has a lot to answer for with the seeming demise of local high street stores, but it has also become a place for independent businesses to flourish. You can create an online business from the comfort of your own home if that’s what suits you, making work arguably more accessible.
I couldn’t find any statistics to support my next assumption, but I suspect that charitable fundraising has been able to increase by using the medium of the internet too. Start a page here, drop a link there, and you’re away.
It’s not all about the internet though. With this more accessible online world comes a necessity for technology to support it. We’ve moved on from the first mobile phones that looked like bricks, to smartphones. Our computers have become portable with laptops and tablets making it easy to stay connected or work from any chosen location. Hardware and software is being developed at what feels like lightening speed and with it is a need for a generation who can keep up with this evolving world and be part of it.
Even our curriculum is up to speed in this area with young children learning code on programs like Scratch and computer labs being present in primary schools. When I was at school we barely had one computer per classroom never mind a whole suite in the school.
In our homes we have devices – desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. To some they are a nuisance, an interference or a necessary evil. To me they are a part of the world that my children are growing up in, and something that will be as common place to them as pay phones were to us.
Like any new technology, be it the introduction of telephones or internet connected tablets, it’s what you do with it that counts. Devices can be used to play games, read stories or learn how the world works. I do allow our boys limited screen time on a select set of applications which we have carefully chosen for them. This includes the STEM apps from Tinybop (https://tinybop.com/), games for younger children from Sago Mini (https://sagomini.com/en/) and apps that are just plain fun from Toca Boca (https://tocaboca.com/).
Recently our eldest has taken an interest in Minecraft, much encouraged by his friends. After having to learn how it worked for ourselves, we allowed him to have guided play. We’ve overseen how he uses the game and encouraged creative building and exploration. We set time limits on how often and when he can play and this has built a healthy ethos for the boys around device usage.
Everyone needs a balance in where they spend their time. Arguably I’d rather my children engage in the creative build and learning of some of these apps than sit in front of the TV. Like TV, there are good programmes that inspire and educate and those that are repetitive dross.
For us the use of technology isn’t at the expense of walking the dog in the woods or hunting for minibeasts. It complements our life instead through allowing us to look things up and provide the children with wider opportunity for thought processes that will become (and perhaps already are) invariably part of their world.
What do you think? Do you rue the day the internet was invented or do you actively seek to use it in your every day life? Let me know in the comments below!
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If you enjoyed this post, you might like to check out my thoughts on the Hopster app here.
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