Today on the Brian Leher show, Thomas Friedman announced that “There is no more average.” Citing statistics about the connection between unemployment and education, Friedman said that the less educated you are and the less spectacular you are, the less likely you are to succeed in this new technology-driven world of ours.
Of course, I went right to thinking about my own children, and while those children are mere babies–eight and three years old–I couldn’t help but think what this means for their future. I’m not the only parent thinking about how technology can influence our children–in fact, a new study by Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics of Kansas City, Mo., said 83 percent of parents believed the benefits outweighed the risks of social media,and more that social media was “good preparation for future involvement in a technology-dependent work world.”
Now, I’m not sure I entirely subscribe to this–mostly I think Facebook for kids is just an easier way to brag or bully each other–we do owe it to our children to make sure they are on the “cutting edge” of technology. Okay, so any time someone writes “cutting edge” with sincerity, you know it means trouble, and because my mind processes information like a teenager, I want to define “cutting edge” by writing this: Angry Birds 24-7. Or I want to define “cutting edge” by memorizing mom’s password and download as many apps as possible.
So what does it really mean? Does this mean we succumb to the pressure of spending a fortune on a camp like this one so that our children can program iPhones at the young age of 10? (Granted the camp looks fantastic.) Or does it mean we have to drag them to DefCon camp so they can learn to hack away at complicated codes? I don’t know about you, but every time I hear about a technology camp for kids that my kid isn’t enrolled in, I think he’s lost a future opportunity to work at Skywalker Ranch. Because in my mind, working at Skywalker Ranch means that George Lucas will need to think you’re above average. And Skywalker Ranch = I made it big, Mom.
I thought about this while watching television with my eight-year-old recently. Specifically, while watching Adventure Time, a show on Cartoon Network about a boy named Finn and his sidekick, Jake, a magical dog. Though there is an overall theme about an existentialist quest I’m not exactly sure I follow, Finn and Jake mostly a fight psychopathic introvert/evil emperor, the Ice King, who is forever attempting to kidnap a woman named Princess Bubblegum and make her his wife.
I turned to my son Jake and said, “The creators of this show have a wild imagination.”
“Yep,” he said.
“Think you might want to create your own world?”
“Not really,” he said, and turned up the volume.
But my anxiety about directing my child into an above-average world overruled his lack-of interest. Why should he be a passive watcher when he can be a leader? I kissed his little arm. This world will be so frighteningly more competitive in just ten years, honey, I thought. iPhones will be replaced by some other concept phone/internet/Star Trek transporter. You need to stay ahead all the time all the time all the time.
So I opened my laptop, found a free comic book maker and signed up. Since my son is easily convinced by anything with the word “computer”–as in, “Want to watch this tutorial about how to make your own comic book on my computer?”–he was easily engaged. And in watching him manipulate the characters arms and re-size backgrounds, I couldn’t help but think about how my kid would one day have the skills to animate his own Cartoon Network show with the skills that he was learning from this program. That he’d win awards! That he’d become a mentor for Pixar! That he’d be the next Garry Trudeau! That George Lucas would pass the torch over to him!
Or maybe I was simply helping him develop his interests. And that’s nice too.
(Image: Cartoon Network)