Having lived in Barcelona for almost two months now, one of the aspects of this country (and ultimately, all of Europe) that I’ve come to appreciate is the lack of technology use during mealtime. In America, my generation has grown up in an environment that considers it completely normal and socially acceptable to have a cell phone lying beside a plate of food. To be honest, I didn’t realize how dependent I was on my cellular device until I studied abroad. I quickly realized that the Spanish cherish every minute with friends and family, thus taking advantage of breakfast, lunch and dinner as an opportunity to connect with one another. During my time spent in various restaurants and café’s, I’ve noticed that no one uses their cell phones, and if so, it is considered to be rude.
Having a brother almost five years younger than me, I’d like to think that I have a comprehensive understanding of the development stages of children born in our technological-based decade.
Don’t get me wrong—multimedia and technological advancements have their perks. I couldn’t imagine driving to a foreign destination without relying on my iPhone’s “Maps” application to guide my route step-by-step. However, a CNN article by Chelsea Clinton and James P. Steyer, “Is the Internet hurting children?” made me to realize how such advancements are reshaping the ways in which children are raised and communicate with one another.
The article explains that 90 percent of American two-year-olds already have an online history, along with 7.5 million people under the age of 13 with Facebook accounts. Although these numbers are staggering, I am not surprised—by the time my younger brother was in elementary school, he already carried a cell phone of his own, introducing me to new apps and shortcuts that I was previously oblivious to.
Day-to-day communication is not the only technological transformation—movies today, even those G-rated, contain considerably higher amounts of sex, violence and crudity than films with the same rating from 10-20 years ago. I have experienced such instances firsthand while watching my brother become accustomed to swear words and violence through video games like Call of Duty, as well as PG-13 movies that would have been rated R years ago.
If managed properly, the possibility of using media to positively transform our lives is likely. However, the 24/7 digital world we live in must begin to require “legislation, educational efforts and norms that reflect 21st-century realities to maximize the opportunities and minimize the risks for our kids. Only then will we be able to give them the safe, healthy childhood and adolescence they deserve” (CNN article, Clinton & Steyer).