It’s been a tiring week.
Davey Teller, the rich kid at my boys’ school has just got the new iPhone 7.
Of course they’re jealous. I’m even a little bit jealous. When the new handset came out last September, I was still working in London. I remember the hubbub and excitement that ensued in the office. A load of men in their 40s and 50s spending the morning excitedly swiping and thumbing their new phones, trying to ascertain what makes them different from the last model.
New technology used to be something that only overweight schmucks and Trekkies had the time to get distracted by. But now, a new phone hits the market and the world stops moving so everyone can either queue up and buy it or watch enviously from the sidelines. If you’re wondering where my boys (and myself for that matter) ended up on this rather binary spectrum then I’ll save you the calculations and tell you now that we weren’t all basking in the omniscient glow of Apple’s new phone last September, nor shall we be in the near future.
My boys are 10 and 11. I’m not completely insensitive to their ‘needs’.
I understand kids of their generation have grown up watching their parents incessantly tapping on electronic devices of progressively slimmer stature, they see it as the gateway to their adulthood.
Through their first smartphone, they’ll have access to thousands of servers all around the globe. With this information they will be armed to cheat their way through every essay and piece of homework. The friends they make using it could well be people that they know for the rest of their lives – if only through various simulacrums of online communications.
However, this first phone, given to them from their parents (because how else would they be able to afford it?), could also expose them to the kind of human truths that they may well have avoided for another few years.
As much as the internet spotlights all that is wonderful about human ingenuity, it also shines a light on the less admirable portions of our existence – with the same unerring beam.
Not even teenagers yet, is it too early to show them all of this? Or is the development of the internet simply another ‘talk’ that the parents need to have with their children?
Beyond the waking nightmares that all parents have, when considering the psychological ramifications of unintentionally exposing their children to unsuitable material, there is also the insidious power of the Internet to think of as well.
From the moment we all connect to the internet, whether its through our phones or a computer, we are being advertised to. Whereas 10 years or so ago, this advertising was restricted to obvious ‘banner ads’ and ‘pop-ups’, the bidding of multi-national corporations and powerhouse brands is now done by the most unassuming agents. Thousands of contributors to the internet, from prominent YouTubers to the legions of writers working for BuzzFeed, now create content with an agenda.
They know how best to market to college students and they know how to transform your child into the perfect consumer of tomorrow. The only question is, do you let them?
I’ve decided to attack the problem pragmatically.
Should my children, not even teenagers yet, have the latest iPhone in their grubby mitts? No. If I don’t get one, then they don’t.
Should they at least be given a chance to dip their toes into the virtual pool of information? Yes. That’s why they’ll both be receiving budget smart phones for their Christmas presents this year. For the time being, they’ll just have to cope with living a life untethered to electronic devices.