Preparing our children for the ‘and’ era

(or how to keep out of future’s hair)

Let me warn you that you are not going to like what I am about to say. At least for the next two decades. Perhaps one. Perhaps a lesser time interval has to pass before you may grudgingly admit that my opinion may at least be worth considering.

We view the intervention of technology in our children’s lives just as we might view a paedophile entering a schoolyard with no teachers or guards around. We shouldn’t.

To quote a popular line from films, “You fear what you don’t understand”. And I don’t mean to say that you don’t understand technology. In fact you do understand it well. But your opinions about it were formed when you transitioned from an analog life to a digital one. Where you saw bits getting freedom that atoms never had. When you transitioned from writing down your secret on a piece of paper and hiding it, to see people (to your horror) posting about their deepest darkest secrets on social media and actually wishing for somebody halfway across the globe to marvel at it!

We are ‘technological settlers’ whereas our children were born with it. We struggled to modify our ways to integrate technology and automation in our lives and viewed it as a blow against human abilities and employability. Our dads and uncles did not go beyond checking emails or playing chess against the CPU because they were afraid that they might touch a wrong button and start World War III.

Not our children. They fly with their tablets and help mommy restart her mobile device. They fiddle with microwave panels and hear washing machine beeps to inform her that the clothes are now rinsed and dried.

And instead of lovingly watching them stand and walk for the first time upon the technological ground, we fear they might fall. And hurt themselves and their eyes, their motor capabilities, their ability to mingle with real life friends and construct a world that is not as simple as adding or deleting a wooden block in Minecraft.

Our view of the world. Not theirs. Do get ready to listen to what you yourself said to your parents. “Dad, you don’t understand”. “Mom, stay out of this. You never had to deal with __ (fill in the blank).”

We are in awe of technology. They will not be. We fear the adverse effects of digitisation. Sure. Constructing a road does make accidents possible!

Perhaps we should shut our collective mouths for a while and watch them grow. Do not let your prejudices muddy their clear waters. We have admired explorers, astronauts, pilots, survivors. These kids are no different. They will be living and competing in a world that will get over this awe of technology. Wheel. Paper. Electricity. Radio. We have grown used to things that baffled and terrified a multitude. The young generation will see gadgets, social media and connectivity the same way we view electric shavers and blenders.

Relax. Nothing is going to replace our cherished way of living. Technology will always compliment what’s there. Friendships will change form. Passing funny notes in class has changed to WhatsApp forwards, but human needs haven't changed fundamentally. There’s will be an ‘and’ world. Not an ‘or’ world. Reality and Augmented reality will coexist.

Be nice to your kids. They have to deal with lot more complexity than you ever had to. If you hide their tablets in your wardrobe, let it be for the right reason. Too much of anything is bad. But teach the faults of excess, not of the gadgets. Teach netiquettes, don’t teach abstaining from the connected world. Look at your next generation the same way seafarers and explorers were looked upon centuries ago. They may leave us for the promised land, but at least they will send back souvenirs.