E-mail inboxes are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. Sometimes it’s recipes from your grandma. Sometimes it’s ads from furniture outlets begging you to buy a coffee table. Sometimes it’s notifications from Nigerian princes, telling you you’re wealthy beyond your wildest dreams.
And every once in a while, you get a Plugged In blog idea.
When I received the following clip (from friend, colleague and former Jeopardy contestant Kyle Adams), it reminded me of something we often remind you about: the abject terrors of technology.
The 2052-era teens in the clip are horrified when Gramps spins his terrifying yarn of impossibly slow 4G networks and impossibly heavy iPhones and, of course, the dread of Redbox. But the beauty of this little skit is that it works both ways: It echoes are own apprehension of what our wired future might hold.
When one kid asks Gramps how he could live in such a backward time—“How were you still interested in something after five minutes of not having it?!”—it reminds us how technology can rob us of our ability to focus. When another kid talks about how ax-murder stories are all the rage on “PBS Kids,” it reflects our fears of a coarsening culture. On screen, it’s the kids who are scared. But it works because it’s the parents watching who are.
An insightful article in The New York Times reflects that growing unease. Reporter Nellie Bowles says that screen-free time has become a luxury good. Why? She writes this:
The rich have grown afraid of screens. They want their children to play with blocks, and tech-free private schools are booming. Humans are more expensive, and rich people are willing and able to pay for them. Conspicuous human interaction — living without a phone for a day, quitting social networks and not answering email — has become a status symbol.
The rich have grown afraid of screens. But you don’t have to be rich to feel the fear. Truth be told, most of us are a bit uneasy.
We see that fear everywhere: Many a horror movie reflects our fear of technology and the realities in might usher in. Netflix’s Black Mirror has been delving into the terrifying side of technology for four seasons now—its very name serving as a dual reference to the occult practice of scrying and the black screens we stare at on our phones.
We fear technology, in part, because we know how powerful it is and how much it’s part of our lives today. But we also fear it because we don’t know exactly how it’ll influence us tomorrow. And I’ve reviewed enough horror movies to know that it’s the fear of the unknown that’s the worst fear of all.
The solution? Information, of course. Education. Once the horror-movie bogeyman is unveiled—once we see it for what it is, however ugly and terrifying it still might be—a little of that fear slips away. It’s not a matter of hiding from this unseen monster anymore: It’s now a matter of dealing with it.
We’ll do our best to help you grow and stay informed with the ever-changing world of technology—like with our Parent’s Guide to Technology published not-so-very-long ago. We’ll keep reporting and writing about tech on this very blog. And when appropriate, we’ll point you to other resources, too.
Technology can indeed be a frightening thing, especially when your kids seem to understand it better than you do. But we’ll do our best to peel away the masks and help you walk through this world as best we can.