As a child, I remember being allowed “40 minutes of video games once a week” and “one hour of television every evening”. My mum could be certain that I was keeping to these rules only because both the TV and computer were in the living room, where she reigned. It has barely been a decade since then, but my five-year-old cousin has his own TV, MP3 player, games, and camera on a single device, held in one hand. Although my aunt complains about the vast range of things he can do on it — and secretly, if he wished — I personally have no intentions to fret. Little me had different amusements compared to what my parents had during their times, and they to what their parents had had. I played video games, Mum read comics, and her dad played with sticks. With the progression of time, technology will only ever improve, and the phenomenon of these changes penetrating into our daily lives is inescapable. I have to agree; it is not always pleasant to witness children so indulged in a world as small as their palms. However, as exposure to these electromagnetic toys becomes ever so unavoidable, why don’t we stop merely frowning upon it and instead accept it as part of the natural course of history?
Adults’ concerns about children’s use of technology are not new. Color television sets had just begun to sell in large numbers during the mid-1960s, and we can take a glimpse at the public’s critical views on this even through Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, published in 1964. Out of the four kids who failed Willy Wonka’s tests, Mike Teavee is a television addict, who, as the Oompa-Loompas chanted, “can no longer understand a fairy tale”. Television was thought to cripple children’s imaginative thinking — hence its epithet “idiot box”. However, as though to put these apprehensions to shame, people have not become any less intelligent compared to 50 years ago. In fact, TV has become a fountain of knowledge, as the scope of contents it can provide has expanded dramatically. Documentaries, debates, and travel shows, to name a few, afford us the insight we could not have gained so easily otherwise. And besides the instructive aspects, television has even formed a certain culture. I myself heartily enjoyed the Saturday evenings spent with my family watching Infinity Challenge like any other Korean household had. And not to mention the monthly movie nights at a friend’s house, surrounded by nachos and popcorns. As for Mike Teavee, in the 2005 film version of the same title, he has moved on from being a television addict to being an electronics devotee, obsessed mainly with video games. But again, looking back from a 2018 point of view, and as someone who was six at the time of the film’s release, in my modest opinion, I highly doubt that I have developed any nature of violence or anxiety as a result of growing up playing video games.
Regardless of the era, the ingenuous innocence that only children are granted have always been admired, but technology is often thought to be a shortcut to maturity. One big concern is the tremendous amount of information and content youngsters have access to — or rather, exposed to. For instance, whereas in real life where people socialize mainly with their own age groups, we find individuals of all ages on social media. Resultantly, through absorption of the communal atmosphere that is part of the internet world, children imitate the people they do not yet belong with, whether knowingly or not. But just like how adults adore innocence, children have always admired adult qualities. I remember a friend in pre-kindergarten who colored her lips with markers of four different colors to impersonate her mother putting on makeup. Aspiring to appear grown-up is therefore a part of children’s natural character, and the use of technology is just another way to do so.
Nevertheless, there definitely are inappropriate contents that children should not be trying to mimic. There are also other issues, like those to do with health — sleep deprivation from late-night uses, worsening eyesight, and so on. However, just as the “idiot box” started providing diversified contents, I believe problems with technology can be solved with technology. Smartphones that are made to work only during a set period of time have already become commercialized in Japan, and wearable technology, for instance, can actually help monitor and develop a healthier lifestyle.
Like any change that arrives upon our society, technological advancements do have their pros and cons. In particular, the fear and doubts stemming from unprecedented changes always direct attention to the young ones, who would have to be the first generation to grow up with them. However, contemporary apprehensions will be solved like they always have been, and before we know it, what we thought was trouble could easily become a part of our lives.