Today I heard about an awesome new website that advertises itself as a great way to help you tear your kids away from the video games and TV and incentivize them to do their chores instead! The website does this by letting them log into a website where your kids can earn credits, and with those credits they can use them as virtual currency on the website.
Critically look at the site and you may start to notice parallels to the way a credit card works. Look a bit further and you’ll discover this site is actually funded and operated by Chase Bank. Go figure. If they had their way, we would be signing our kids up for debit cards and getting them in the habit of being good little debt slaves early on.
The Dangers of being Too Digital
I am a professional technologist. By that, I don’t mean I fix your computer or reset your password for you at XYZ Corp when you have problems at work. I hold advanced technical certifications and have consulted on high level technology projects for some of the most well-known organizations in the world.
With that said, it is both my professional and personal opinion that over exposing our children to technology is a bad idea. I think society is taking the use of technology over the top. We are collectively developing bad habits and introducing high levels of risk within our society.
In the case of currency, I have noticed that many people appear to have trouble translating the idea of virtual money (numbers in the banking/credit card apps on your iPhone) into tangible objects. Thanks to instant credit, money is now virtually limitless. It is completely possible to live in the red at all times. And spending it is beyond effortless, especially with many merchants not even requiring a signature on the dotted line for many transactions.
I believe children need to see and experience things physically and tangibly before they move on to thinking abstractly. Imagine if we tried to teach our children how variables work in algebra before demonstrating how 2 + 2 actually adds up to 4!
The world has become increasingly abstract and non-tangible in the wake of super computing and the internet. Our children no longer actually touch many of the products we used to go to a store to purchase including music, movies, video games and books. These items have largely become virtual, living as bits on far away servers loftily called “the cloud” and downloaded to our iPods and smart phones. Do you, as a full grown adult actually know what the hell “the cloud” even is? Could you actually describe it to me in tangible, real world terms if I put you to the test?
My children marvel at my CD collection which is now shamefully hidden away in my closet. They love the idea of actually holding the music case as they listen to the disc, thumbing through the liner notes. They love feeling the pages of books and magazines between their fingers as we thumb through them. And they especially love trading a pile of coins they’ve saved up for weeks doing chores around the house in exchange for a shiny new toy they picked out for themselves at the store.
As someone who lives in a world of “Cloud Servers”, “Virtual Networks” and “Digital This and That’s”, I urge you to not virtualize our real lives. Sometimes, it’s better to actually hold what it is you worked for in your hand.