A question I’m sometimes asked, particularly by people who are more old school, is: “Don’t you think we are losing something in society when our kids are interacting with their friends and networks through a phone or a gadget rather than in person, direct contact?”
There is a genuine concern about this, that perhaps we are getting so digitized that we are somehow losing a sense of real, human contact. I can understand this view. The age of the communication revolution is so different to the one just a generation earlier. So much so that it can be terribly difficult to comprehend this “always connected” society.
My answer to this questions is simply this: It is part of our inherent intelligence that, as children and young adults, we will make the best use of the environment and tools available to us.
Firstly, for the most part our kids get plenty of human contact. They go to school or university and they have a network of friends with whom they interact. A good percentage play sport or are part of academic or other social groups.
But given the amazing technological platform that exists today, those networks and the interaction with them extends far beyond their physical contact. A conversation can be started on the way to school in the morning through BBM, continue in person at school, move between physical and digital during school and finally come to a conclusion through an evening interaction on Facebook.
I would argue that people are far more social today and connected to the world because of the technology they favour. And being young means they are able to master technology very quickly.
My son, who is now 19, has had a cell phone since he was 8 years old. He has grown up in a world in which he accepts being connected as the default human condition and I am often amazed at the richness and depth of his network.
I can scarcely imagine the world he will pass on to my grand kids.