Last night was the third annual Star Wars marathon at the Filcek household. For the past three years Adam has had several friends over for an all night marathon. Last night most made it into episode three before nodding off, but some made it most of the way through episode four. It has been a fun tradition and the kids love it.
But one thing has been amazing as far as observing a trend among youth. Two years ago a few of the kids brought a video game or two for the Wii. Last year most everyone brought a Nintendo DS and this year almost every child (one third grader who came was the exception) brought an iPod and asked for the WEP code for our wireless router. No Nintendo DS’s in sight!
There are three observations I see here; one merely interesting but the other two potentially alarming. First, there is just a shift toward touch screen mobile gaming. The ubiquity of handheld games has been a growing trend, and it is not just kids but most adults that regularly play mobile games. The only thing that seems a bit concerning about this trend, is the recent Play Station commercials bragging that you can now finish the game on the way to work so you don’t need be late. Really!?
The second observation is what I see as a trend toward work tools equally being a gaming format. An example of this is what I see in my own children. If I am reading a periodical on my iPad my kids are attracted like moths to a flame assuming I am playing a game. The same happens if I am responding to e-mails. What kind of impact will this have on a generation who are eventually going to be expected to actually be productive on a device that has been a toy to them? Maybe they will naturally make this transition, but something is eerie when a commercial touts their product as keeping you from being late from real world work by allowing you to take your games with you.
Lastly, is the extreme availability of the internet. For as much good as there is on the internet there is at least an equal portion of bad. And as a parent of boys in a world where the average age of exposure to porn is 11, I don’t think I am being alarmist here. Every child at my house, save one last night, asked for internet access. Many of them just wanted to play games that required the web. And I genuinely believe that the request was harmless. We granted it until we went to sleep and at that point we unplugged the router.
We are not protecting our children if we are allowing them to have unfettered access to the web. And the unfortunate reality is that many children understand the technology better than their parents. My third grader taught me a feature about my iPhone that I didn’t know and this is my second iPhone! If our children own a device, we should make it our top priority to understand what they are and are not able to access with it and understand how to utilize the security features, and restrictions.
Clearly I am not against technology, but I am very concerned about the way that it is impacting my family, my children, my church, and my community/culture. As we carefully think through these things, may the force be ever in your favor!