Technology is ruining us.
I walked into the living room the other day to find Sophie watching live television and frantically pressing the pause button to no effect. She didn’t ask me, “How does this work?” or even “Which button do I push?” She just sighed an exasperated and frustrated, “The pause button’s broken!”
I diagnosed the problem immediately: we don’t have TiVo on that television. She was holding the remote control for the DVD player. But in the short months we’ve had a TiVo in the other room she’s learned that it’s possible to pause live TV and skip commercials, and has apparently concluded that all television has always worked that way, and it’s just that nobody ever bothered to tell her before.
That’s not an unreasonable assumption for a child at age five. She also learned recently that cars have red lights on the back to tell you when they’re stopping — which really is how it’s always been; she just hasn’t been tall enough to see them before. The difference between something that’s new to her and something that’s new to the world is subtle.
My understanding of modern technology will always be colored by growing up as it was invented. Cellular phones are a natural progression from cordless phones, which followed from wired phones before them. Dial-up modems led to wired networks and then (recently) to ubiquitous Wi-Fi. Understanding one technology goes a long way toward understanding its successors.
But to a child growing up today, a “computer” by definition has instantaneous access to the whole of human knowledge. She’s never had to wonder about anything, since if she asks a question I can’t answer we just sit down with Wikipedia and Google Images and surf until all curiosity is satisfied. That’s what computers are for.
When Sophie was playing with a slinky yesterday I bemoaned not having any stairs in our apartment, and she didn’t understand what use stairs could be with a slinky! Without missing a beat, the next words out of my mouth were, “Let’s find a video of a slinky going down stairs on YouTube.”
And all that brings us to Julia Sweeney’s cautionary monologue titled Sex Ed on (among other things) the dangers of turning too often to the Internet for answers: