Primeval children liked to run the fastest way back to the safe cave. They learned to use tools to make fire and an axe to prepare food. All of that falls under the term “technology,” and has been a part of our lives since time immemorial. It was the invention of the wheel that allowed us to travel, to go further and further beyond our safe caves.
Technology helped us take charge of our lives and brought the next generation progressively farther. The telephone, the computer and the Internet were crucial in the development of humankind. Are we still in control of life as a result of or with technology? And during this technological revolution, what is it like for parents when it comes to supporting their children in becoming adults?
Pandemics were around in prehistoric times too, but they were nameless. You just died like that. Now, if all goes well, it takes a pretty long time for you to die. We are now living with a pandemic that has a name, but oddly enough also keeps our children in a cave: at home. Managing ‘safety’ at home is dependent on a variety of factors. Within the family, unfortunately, safety is not always a given. But apart from the physical world, there is also the digital world. Because aside from knowledge, all kinds of nonsense reaches children’s rooms through the computer. Also, as parents, we actually have far less insight into this than we think.
We have three sons ourselves. There is not only a generation gap between children and parents. But there is also a certain generation gap between our three children. The oldest was used to spending an hour or so on the computer in the living room after playing outside. The youngest, on the other hand, grew up with a touch screen and unlimited internet in his comfy bedroom, where no one gets to see him. During a renovation, he had to spend a month downstairs with us in the living room. It was only then that we saw up close how much he actually gamed. And how good he was at it, and how advanced these games actually are. We were proud of his accomplishments and saw how much he enjoyed gaming.
However, we also saw the suction effect of these games. Our children also told us about the enormous amount of porn available on the Internet. Then there are all those algorithms that make sure that more and more of this garbage is on offer; across all sorts of devices. Nobody asked for that. What do you do about that as parents? On the advice of our sons, we all bought several digital filters that we installed on our computers and telephones.
Violence is ostensibly an integral part of our society and tends to be presented as “normal” in the form of sexist behavior or hard sex and drug use. Nowadays, every parent thinks that the values of their childhood were somehow better than the blurring of standards they see in this next generation. Before you know it, your own children will call you old-fashioned and the word generation gap will be bandied about. But hopefully the cave dweller in us will rise to the occasion when there is too much danger in our own den. And definitely when violence creeps in via technological media, which we also simultaneously embrace as an enrichment in our lives.
The discussion on ethical issues, on what algorithms do, and on all forms of artificial and virtual intelligence are imperative now for supporting our children as they grow into adulthood. After all, they will soon define the society we so desperately want to be.
What did our sons have to say about handling the daily candy store on their technology mediums? “You as parents need to teach us what the good things are and the guiding principles. Because all around us and on the Internet we see such horribly ugly things.”
So: Society, that is us. And it all starts at: ‘Home’, which is also us. From cave-dwellers to where we are now: Technology that helps us manage our lives, as it were. But above all, also putting it aside when it churns out nonsense.
About this column
In a weekly column, alternately written by Eveline van Zeeland, Eugène Franken, JP Kroeger, Katleen Gabriels, Carina Weijma, Bernd Maier-Leppla, Willemijn Brouwer and Colinda de Beer, Innovation Origins tries to figure out what the future will look like. These columnists, sometimes joined by guest bloggers, are all working in their own way to find solutions to the problems of our time. So tomorrow will be good. Here are all the previous articles.