It feels like my opinions about youth and technology are challenged every day. I’ve written about “Teens, Texting and Addiction to Technology” and acknowledged that maybe there isn’t such a generation gap in another article. I do, however, struggle with its benefits to early learners. I’ve told parents that I know it is part of their world. It isn’t all bad but please limit it. I thought I made peace with young people’s ever-on status. BUT NOW?? It hit close to home. It has arrived. It is about MY nephew!
I was innocently and rather mindlessly scrolling on Facebook when I happened upon a post from my sister’s friend. It was a picture of a text exchange between her young daughter and MY 5-YEAR-OLD NEPHEW. The kindergarteners were texting on their parents’ phones. I had to admit the exchange was cute. I understood that it was a “rite of passage” post. Both parents commented about the children being old enough to communicate via text to make their own playdate plans.
My first instinctual reaction was definitely that of an elderly immigrant. I wanted to scream, “What are you doing?! What’s wrong with this generation?! I don’t understand the natives of this technological world!” But then I took a deep breath and remembered that I am, in fact, an immigrant and I cannot go back to the motherland where texting, smartphones and computers weren’t all around us. The motherland is gone. It was wiped from existence.
Yes, I realized rather quickly. There was a lot of good. As I reread the text exchange a few times, I was struck by the literacy skills that had been mastered by these very young children. They communicated to each other well. Their typing lacked ability but their overall grammar was excellent. They stayed pretty much on topic. They even used punctuation appropriately. I texted my sister (that’s right, it’s how I communicate, too). I commented on the use of exclamation points. My sister replied that during the exchange, my nephew “used one exclamation on something and when she used two, he said, ‘She said it louder!’” That was it. I was sold. This was the best melding of technology and grammar skill practice that I’ve seen in a long time.
Two 5-year-olds taught me something this week. I still cannot support early learners spending endless hours on video games. I still think everyone needs to power down, go outside and play. I will not stop wanting to unplug it all and hand them an empty refrigerator box so they can create. HOWEVER, I think texting with your children for short periods of time to friends and loved ones has educational benefits. Okay. There it is. I said it.
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