by Hans Eisenbeis
As many of our clients undoubtedly were reminded last week at Iconosphere, our annual conference, we’re a pretty wired company. We work virtually, from all over the world — last count, 17 countries — on laptops and smartphones and even iPads. I was a little embarrassed, then, to show up at headquarters a couple of weeks ago with my four-year-old BlackBerry. A colleague said it looked more like a TV remote than a phone! So our good tech people set me up with a spanking new Droid, and I’m starting to app with the best of them.
Being a pragmatic Gen Xer, I’m not inclined to load my work phone up with games, but my 9-year-old son sure is. I see everything from Pac-Man to FlowerDrop to Club Penguin on my screen, and I have to wonder if he’ll become tech-addicted like so many teenagers seem to be — disengaged from the real world in inverse proportion to their Facebooking and iTuning.
But it turns out my worries may be not only premature but misplaced. Despite the fact that the average American teen now uses digital media about seven and a half hours per day, recent studies show that kids who spend more time texting on smartphones or swapping digital photos are psychologically healthier than their peers (LATimes.com 5.18.10). They are duplicating their offline behavior, spending time with real friends, not scary strangers, and basically just conducting their lives. These studies are early but encouraging, and they suggest that the technology itself is only as good (or as bad) as the child using it. And that, of course, goes back to one thing: parenting IRL.