Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at a few conferences on the subject of technology, social media and how it’s affecting our kids and what parents can do about it. I was surprised and delighted by the response of parents and ministers who wanted to better understand this subject.
Since these conferences weren’t recorded, I thought I would compile the presentation and deliver them to you in a two part series. In part one, I’ll cover how technology and the web has changed in the last 30 years. These changes will set up part two, in which I will cover five significant ways that technology is impacting our kids and what we can do about. Here’s part one:
How We Got Here (Three Major Technical Advances)
First, let’s talk about how we got into the situation that we’re in. We do that by looking that three major technical revolutions that occurred in the last 30 years.
Computers Have Become Smaller
When I graduated high school, my parents gave me a Compaq desktop computer. It was a rather large machine, but at that time it was the fastest computer available and it cost a small fortune. Of course, fast forward to today and my iPhone 6 has more RAM and hard drive space than that computer. We’ve made quantum leaps in the last 30 years in terms of size, speed and cost of our computers.
The Internet Lost Its Time Limit
Do you remember those AOL discs? They could be found at every Target checkout counter or occasionally in your mailbox. They were AOL’s way of getting you sign up for their dial-up internet service. The disc gave you the software and 40 “free” hours of internet time.
That’s right, there was a time limit on the internet. Most companies in the 1990s would offer you “x” amount of hours on the internet for “x” amount of dollars. This all changed when AT&T came out with a $19.99 unlimited internet package. You now could spend all day on the internet for just $19.99. Today, that may seem crazy, but at the time this was revolutionary. (For more on this subject, read the author of What Would Google Do? Jeff Jarvis’s blog.)
The Internet is Now Everywhere
Last year my wife and I were traveling in Rome and we needed to check in on our child and see how things were going. We stopped off for lunch at a small cafe and hopped on their wi-fi. It later dawned on me how much things had changed. Here I was, thousands of miles away from my child and with a small push of a button I was connected to my family. The internet is now everywhere.
How Our Views Changed (The Three Transitions of How We Interact with the Web)
Now that we’ve seen how our access and computers changed, we need to look at how we interact with the web has changed. I’ll break this down into three phases:
Web 1.0 (We Go to the Web for Information)
This is how most Boomers and Gen-X people encountered the web. In a web 1.0 world, you go to the internet for information. You’re looking for sports scores, weather, or reading your email. The web at this point is primarliy information based.
Web 2.0 (We Go to the Web for Relationship)
This is how most Millenials first encountered the web. In a web 2.0 world, the interaction with the web is based on contributing and forming relationships. For example, you can comment on articles, create a blog, tweet, or upload photos to Facebook. Now, not only are you getting information from the web, but you’re contributing information back to the web. You’re also creating relationships with other people via the web. With web 2.0, we start to see people feel ownership of the web and their digital space. At this point, the web has become ingrained in our daily lives.
Web 3.0 (The Web is Always with Us)
Web 3.0 is sometimes called the “Internet of Things”. Here’s an example. If you wear a fitness tracker (i.e. Fitbit), you are more than likely wearing a device that can communicate with the internet and update your status without you needing to do anything. That small device is letting the internet know how far you walked, what your heart rate was and how fast you went.
With Web 3.0 we see the lines between humans and the internet start to blur. There’s no clear line from where you begin or end and where the internet starts. The internet moves from being just a part of our lives to a support system for our lives. I believe these lines will continue to blur in the future.
Now when you understand the technical advances we’ve made (smaller devices, unlimited internet and internet everywhere) you can begin to see that our kids are growing up in a radically different world with radically different issues.
So how does this affect our kids and what can we do to prepare them for this new world? That’s what we’re going to cover in part two. In part two, we’re going to look at five things that parents need to know about technology and three things they can do to help their kids.