Uploaded by Ramanan Subbiah

What is the influence of modern technological progress on children

“What is the influence of modern technological progress on children?”
In the belief that criticisms also should be welcomed without prejudice in
answering the above question as a fair response we shall begin our act. So let’s
ask the question and seek answers from it before we examine it. This is being
attempted to bring the background of the issue to the table and generate
multiple perspectives that coexist. When according to the question in the timeline
of human history did modern technology begin? Which civilization of the world
today can successfully claim to be untouched by modern technology? What
constitutes this term “modern technological” progress according to the question?
How does the question view the quote “Child is the father of man” in this
context? Hoping it wouldn’t be incorrect and wouldn’t amount to snatching the
credit off the question, we need to freeze on some vital assumptions.
Firstly, all through human civilizations there has always been a quest to explore;
experiment; invent and make life simpler, healthier and comfortable isn’t it? Be it
the invention of the wheel, invention of fire or the six simple machines to move
things or the recent advancements in the field of art, math, architecture,
engineering, telecommunication, transportation, aeronautics, space research,
medicine, ceramics, textile, rubber, artificial intelligence, Nano-technology etc.
Can we deny the presence and the influence of modern technology on the world?
We cannot but appreciate its presence and understand that is inextricably
interwoven in every aspect of human existence today.
Secondly, yesterday’s inventions reach the common man today, while tomorrow’s
technology gets built for the military and the super-rich celebrities of the day. For
e.g. there wouldn’t be laptops today if not for the gargantuan complex calculator
machines of the mid-20th century. If not for the primitive aircraft designed by the
Right brothers in 1903 (also please remember earliest sketches of a flying
machine were made by Leonardo Da Vinci in 15th Century) can we imagine of
today’s A380s, supersonic planes and helicopters? So let’s agree that modern
technological progress has never ceased to exist across the whole of human
history and it isn’t something that is recent. The only aspect to be observed is the
fact that any new technology that gets celebrated as modern today fades away
into the oblivion in course of time. So there is no perpetual quality reserved for a
certain technology that preserves it till eternity. This temporal attribute is the
fulcrum of the term modern technology and we need to understand that all
technologies are in vogue as long as they remain relevant. Any technology of
merit isn’t good or bad by its own virtue but can be explored or exploited for the
good or bad by the user knowingly or unknowingly.
Finally, having laid out the context for discussion about the question let’s raise the
next rung of questions. Can children be immune to such technological
developments? Or should children be immune to them? It is a resounding ‘No’
indeed, right? In fact why should they be so? But a no with a reservation; a
reservation so that they do retain and grow some of the profound human
qualities of compassion, benevolence, gratitude, healthy relationships, values etc.
Children are dependent on adults for many of their physical, emotional,
knowledge and spiritual needs. They form the vulnerable segment of any society
and any shortcomings on their part or strong influences in their progress cannot
be discussed unless we look at what values the parents and other adults of the
society hold as they are the prime decision makers.
We can now get into an argumentative mode to skim out the ‘influence of
modern technology on children’ that does not only paint a good or bad picture
but also pictures the progress of children in captivity (Captivity because we have
unconsciously enslaved ourselves to it). Comfort, convenience, aesthetics, short
term benefits, fast results are the choicest reasons over and above health and
safety that that have led scientists and technologists to invent devices. For e.g.
Door closer - a machine to close the door; means you needn’t close it, it would
instead. An escalator / elevator– a machine to move you up or down; means you
needn’t move you would be moved instead. And now the arrival of driverless
cars; self-balancing bikes etc. means you needn’t be on the driver’s seat you
would get driven. And there is grammarly – a computer program that auto
corrects your grammar and spelling errors. You also have air-conditioners that can
be programmed to switch on and make your home cooler before you arrive.
So what does smart technology expect out of you? – Just be a passive consumer,
hardly apply your brain and enjoy the virtual pride of owning it while being
consumed by it. So what are we communicating to our children in the bargain of
creating a ultra-modern; super-convenient; absolutely-fool-proof future? We are
leading them to believe nothing is irreplaceable. We are repeatedly reinforcing
that it is comfort that matters most and not compassion. We are constantly
exposing them to a world where success is determined by overflowing luxuries
and lack of humane qualities.
Building a world with technology that potentially reduces human interaction and
prepares people to get addicted to comfort (laziness) is the misplaced mantra.
This ruthlessly mechanistic modern technology has pushed human sensitivity to
its peril. The world is gradually witnessing an extremely shocking change in
human behaviour that threatens to erode the peace from the face of the earth
and cause irreparable damage through violence generated by technology
addicted behaviour. This is seen due to spurt in increased cases of suicidal
tendencies, sudden violent out bursts of frustration and supressed emotions,
depression, killer instincts, suicides and murders experienced amongst young
adolescents and school children reported during the telecast of certain serials on
television, Netflix, YouTube etc. or during the publication of results for
examinations. We wouldn’t be doing greater harm to our children in trying to look
at technology for answer to the above problem. The challenge is a strange one,
where as humans we seem to have given undue importance to technology that it
has gained enough strength to strip us off our human qualities and overpower us.
Are today’s inventions leading children to an exclusive world created by virtual
ideals where comfort and adulation of the self gets prime importance as human
interactions become a rarity? Are scientists overlooking the undesired results of
designing a scary, cold, un-friendly world that gets its humans replaced by
machines? What’s the price that we might end up paying for unduly glorifying and
introducing technology into children’s lives so early on? In the future wouldn’t it
be rude if we were to say a child is unfriendly or impolite because he / she didn’t
offer help or support to their neighbours in need? It simply would mean we have
morally failed in our responsibility to provide enough opportunities for the child
to build its emotional intelligence and core values of life.
The mobile phone is the single most influential gadget in the lives of children
today. There has been no personal device before that was as intimate as a mobile
phone. Till about two decades ago, there was one TV, one washing machine, one
refrigerator, one telephone, one car, one or two bikes for the entire household.
Still these gadgets continue to remain in their earlier proportions while the
mobile phones have rivalled and outnumbered them overnight. We find that most
school going children are glued to their mobile phone screens most of the time, at
home at school. The exposure of dopamine from all screen based gadgets
I have lost sight on the definition of a famous quote about freedom “Your right to
swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.” Forget the nose,
today; we have arms of managements; eyes of governments, ears of corporates
creeping into every public and private space through CCTVs (Closed Circuit
Television Cameras). In the name of providing a safe and secure environment
they have partnered in building a world where compromised values are the norm.
No doubt it provides vital clues to decode a crime scene but it has also eaten its
way ruthlessly into every personal interaction between fellow mates in schools, in
offices, in airports, in restaurants, in bakeries, in railway stations etc. whose
privacy is outrageously breached and their personal terrain plundered. The CCTVs
are now restricted to guard and monitor the fortresses that only have left
bedrooms and bathrooms from being invaded, let’s believe so? And the law is
playing a silent fiddle to the whole phenomenon.
For e.g. We all know that Google reads our emails before we do. We have
thoughtlessly accepted the fact that twitter and Facebook posts are read by
intelligence agencies before being read by its intended recipients and have the
audacity to exclaim we are smart. Is this ok?
We shall now handover the baton to the other side hoping that a contrastingly
positive picture emerges from its dark shadows.
Can you imagine what the young woman Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan who
won the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17 had to say? She said “Technology has
contributed a lot to the world,” said “Technology is growing; we must educate our
future generation so they will be ready for changes we are going to see.” Can you
imagine the successful execution of a complex surgery in remote corner of the
world in the event of an unforeseen emergency? Can you think of a better
blessing than when you witness the prevention of accidents (caused due to
human error) through timely intervention by technology? Our children are
growing up in this positive atmosphere where science and technology are very
empathic towards the environment and fellow humans. There can be very little
doubt that they would remain grounded and humane in future too.
It might be hard to believe that Steve Jobs, the Ex-CEO of AppleTM had a no gadget
rule to limit the use of mobile phones and screen time at home. Why did the
person who was considered to be the technology evangelists to the world restrain
his kids from engaging with the gadgets? Why was this moderation required at
home? The reason is backed by strong evidence that sustained or prolonged
exposure to the digital screen is the cause for most chronic life-style driven
diseases and disorders and he was only trying to play his cards with wisdom at
Ignoring the above fact, we continue to get our children accustomed to the
superficially sophisticated stupid culture of clicking the ok button before reading
through its conditions and blindly agreeing to sign into any service that is offered
through the screen. To question is an expression of intelligence and to deny or
circumvent the process is to wipe out this important cog in defining the progress
of children. It is unjust. We expect our children to surrender meekly, to
compromise, without questioning the intent of the service provider. In the
process, whom are we benefitting? Why should we build a society that gives in
easily? Can’t we create a level playing field? What is our right over our life or our
children’s lives? Are we pledging too much for the freebies being offered. We all
know that through an android or an IOS phone the app provider can track the
physical movement of the user, map the pattern of purchase, know our areas of
personal interest, eaves drop into intimate conversations and build the big data
for their next big thing. What’s the fun in being armless, toothless and spineless
vertebrates? No right is ever given; it is always fought and won.
This ugly influence of technology will leave our world in tatters if we don’t
prepare our children. This dark side of today’s heartless communication
technology that unfairly demonises and hijacks the humane spirit of inventors
from the past and enslaves intelligently crafted applications to exploit by holding
supreme control in storing, transmitting, sharing personal information of millions
of people for untold gains needs to be brought to the trial room soon.
Let us reserve some innocence for our children. Let god bless our children. Let us
help our children gain a skill to balance technology without compromising
humane values in their lives. Let our technology allow our children to be children
before they become adults.