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Posts Tagged ‘Alone Together’

What’s In Your Family’s Digital Future?

Monday, January 10th, 2011

My daughter signed up my oldest grandson, eight, for his first gmail account. Within a few hours he had figured out how to sign on his little brother, who turned five last June. He already knows how to check his email on his mother’s iTouch.   This didn’t happen out of nowhere.  When he was three or four, he learned how to read the word “START” by logging on to his Webkinz account, and now he and his younger brother frequent Club Penguin where they can “waddle around and meet new friends.”   It’s social media with training wheels.

What’s happening in my daughter’s house is happening almost everywhere.   I hear other women talk about following their (older) grandchildren on Facebook, keeping in touch via Skype, learning how to text because a teenage grandchild thinks emails are lame.

Undoubtedly, a lot of good will come from our digital connectedness.   Perhaps technology can help build better intergenerational relationships.  We can relate to our grandkids without always having to go through their parents.  We’ll learn more details and more nuanced information about our grandchildren than our grandparents ever knew about us–who their friends are,  their likes and dislikes.   Even when it’s hard or impossible to see each other, we have ways of staying in touch.  And who knows?  Maybe they’ll think we’re hip (or whatever word they use now) because we didn’t get stuck in the Industrial Age!

All to the good, but even scientists who study the effects of the Internet don’t know where all this connection and conversation will eventually take us.  In her new book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Teachnology and Less from Each Other, MIT professor Sherry Turkle, who has been pondering these questions for the last 15 years, notes that we’re only at “the beginning.”  She raises some important issues about computer-mediated communications, among them… (more…)