Society / Technology

10 Ways Technology Will Change Childhood (for Better and Worse)

Some parts of being a kid never change.  Best friends, schoolyard bullies, and after-school snacks will be around for another century at least (speaking from my experience here in the US).  But new technology forces us to adapt, and children are not exempt.  At the risk of sounding like an old fogey before my time, here are 10 ways childhood will be different in the future, for both good and bad.   And yes, these are tongue-in-cheek, but most of them are serious possibilities.  A tip of the hat to BB for thinking up item #10, and inspiring the rest.

Little girl blowing bubbles

courtesy Phaedra Wilkinson

How Technology Will Spoil Childhood

10. Augmented Reality glasses + Find-My-Friends app = Hide & Seek FAIL.  By the time Timmy’s done counting to 10, he’s downloaded a location tracker to his smartphone and pulled up the visual on his AR goggles, making it a cinch to find his hidden friends in record time.  Timmy thinks he’s pretty clever, but what he doesn’t know is that he’s sent yet another classic childhood game into the dusty landfill of obsolescence.  Thanks a lot, Timmy.

9. Virtual field trips. They’re just not the same, amirite?  Sure, those web-linked holographic projectors in the classroom can teach you a lot about dinosaurs or spiders, and they don’t require a bus or chaperone.  But they can’t replace the grandeur of a real T-rex skeleton towering over a bunch of 2nd graders, or the terror of poking a live tarantula, or whatever it is kids do these days.

8. Cloud storage circumvents homework excuses.  When you do all your math problems and essays on a computer, and your answers are instantly uploaded to the school’s servers, the classic “Fido ate it” just ain’t gonna fly.  Even the more sophisticated “printer was broken” or “washed it in the laundry” won’t help.

7. Parents compete with Google.  There comes a time in everyone’s life when they realize that their parents are – gasp! – wrong sometimes.  And that moment is an important step in becoming a critical thinker and independent person.  But when any 6-year old with a mobile device can fact-check dad’s story right there at the dinner table, kids will be hard-nosed skeptics from the get-go, and they’ll never experience the blissful ignorance of blind trust.

6. Telepresence makes for a boring sleepover.  Little Anushka’s inviting her entire 50-person class over for a scary movie.  But the only way they’ll all fit is to video-conference each other from home, stream the movie and then play truth-or-dare via instant online poll.  Let me put it this way: if you’re not waking the neighbors at 3:00 AM with a house-demolishing 12-way pillow fight, it’s NOT a sleepover.

Papuan children receiving laptops

courtesy One Laptop Per Child

How Technology Will Upgrade Childhood

5. Digital notes can’t be confiscated.  Once considered an act of in-class daring, the ubiquitous “Do You Like Me Y/N” can now be composed, sent to multiple recipients and answered in seconds, with teachers none the wiser.  And no secret folding techniques required.

4. Books = weightless.  No longer will school kids bear the back-breaking burden of quarter-ton algebra texts.  Instead they’ll have instant access to all the math drills, science labs, and classic literature they never wanted, through an e-reader the size of a candy bar.

3. Nanotechnology in the lunchbox.  So mom has ignored your pleas and packed you that foul sardine dip again?  Not to worry, just open up a pack of nano-bot constructors and set them to work gathering nearby materials (ie, your friends’ lunches).  Before you know it, they’ve melted down the offending food and constructed a tasty peanut butter and jelly sandwich in its place.

2. Sharing is easy.  When I was little, I was taught to share, although it was awfully hard with my very favorite toys… Hero Quest comes to mind.  But when 90% of your toys and games are purely digital, everyone can use them at the same time.  The days of armwrestling Fat Jimmy over a pack of baseball cards are mercifully over.

1. Self-driving cars.  Think about it:  No parallel parking, no license exam, no stress.  Better still, no dinged fenders and no car accidents.  Best of all, you’ll never have to put up with the sweating, white-knuckled driver’s ed instructor screaming in terror from the passenger seat!  (Or was that just me…?)

So as you can see, being a future child is going to be all kinds of awesome (and some kinds of lame).  Your turn – what do you think kids of the future have to look forward to?  Add your ideas in the comment section below, and don’t forget to share this list using the handy social network buttons.

6 thoughts on “10 Ways Technology Will Change Childhood (for Better and Worse)

  1. I’m not so sure about #7. I don’t think that being able to search Google will turn kids into skeptics. Only a natural skeptic would be checking Dad’s facts at 6 years old…. However, I do worry about the the curious 5 year old who wants to know more about Santa Claus. I wonder what wikipedia has to say about the North Pole, etc…

    • My 5 year old nephew knows how to use his mom’s iPhone better than he does, but he still believes everything his dad tells him. In fact, he won’t believe things I tell him until his dad verifies it. I think we may be safe on this one for awhile yet.

  2. Santa Claus and the tooth fairy are safe. After all, any kid who doesn’t believe might not get presents or coins. I’m hoping that the adults don’t lose their belief in the power of authentic experiences and that field trips, even in the face of declining funding, will stick around until at least we get version 75.6 of item # 10.

    • It’s true, behavioral conditioning is a powerful force – especially where presents are concerned! I agree that real-life experiences are very important, and I hope the next generation does too.

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