Monday, August 30, 2010

What Kids Want from Technology

For my fellow geek dads (and moms): Check out this very original study of what children want from technology. At first glance, the questions and the answers they provoke seem, well, child-like: Of course, the kids want the world, they want the whole world, and they want today and tomorrow:

Love that song!

But the Latitude study reveals some deeper things going on, which are nicely summarized in this video:

There's a couple interesting things here. One is that children's science-fiction dreams are very much shaped by how they're experiencing technology right now, and the video does a nice job of connecting what they imagine to real technological trends like augmented reality and RFID tags. Innovation starts in imagination and children live in a world augmented by stories and images in their heads; it's a strange but true fact that a great deal of recent technological innovation has started in childhood science-fiction dreams.

On a much less idealistic level, it's also true that wants and needs drive innovation; children are imagining things that someone will try to manufacture and sell to them, as both fantasy and reality.

But consider, for a moment, how so many of these desires rely on being connected to other people. The kids want cool stuff, but they're also imagining opportunities for creativity and community. Veruca Salt and Charlie Bucket co-exist within all of us, a selfish devil and a community-minded angel, which is the root of the appeal of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory story. It's really up to us adults, parents and non-parents alike, to create a world in which kids are encouraged to find and amplify the non-materialistic, communitarian possibilities presented by a connected world like the one you're a part of on this blog. In other words, we should all strive to be Grandpa Joe, not Veruca Salt's bad egg of a dad! Honk honk!

I'm curious: Any stories to share about your kids and technology? Any thoughts inspired by this video? Leave them in a comment!

Revised from a post on

12 comments: said...

Jeremy is revealing how young his child is. My kids are adults, tweens and teens. I find the admin issues of dealing with the tech now to be maddening. I find the links, including Willy Wonka, to be disturbing. Though for Mr. Wonka that is what Dahl wanted. Everything noted does something for you. You can't give someone, or something, the power to do something for you with out also giving them the power to do something to you. For example: Do I own this post?? Does Jeremy own it? Does Google own it? What control do I have over this post - after I post it? I discuss this with my kids, do you??

Jeremy Adam Smith said...

So many questions, rtb, so little time. My own quick take is that we're entering an age where ownership of intellectual property will be more collective and more shareable than it has been, and that we're going to have to find ways to monetize content that don't involve exclusive ownership. I think our kids will be much more comfortable with this concept than we are. I don't think this evolution will result in utopia; I think it just shifts the lines of battle.

Dana H. Glazer said...

Good conversation starter, Jeremy. All my six year old son wants right now is a wii console. Besides the price tag, I have reservations. While I marvel at the candy factor of all that's happening virtually right now in our world, I worry that, unrestrained, it will continue to consume our every moment. The virtual reality aspects of our lives will never equate with our direct connections to people and to nature. They don't fill us up the way that these direct connections do. They are secondary in my mind. They don't fill us up in the same way. I do see the benefit of computers as an extension of communication (or I wouldn't be writing here) but more of a balance needs to be struck with all of this technology before it consumes us. So, for the time being, Charlie will go without his Wii and be forced to interact with living, breathing things a little longer.


daddy in a strange land said...

This just happened tonight!

Earlier this evening, playing in the backyard, our 5-year-old, wanted to jump rope with her mom and was tired of the couple rope-jumping songs she remembered. So I got out my iPhone and looked up "jump rope songs," found a site with a list that linked to individual lyrics, and started looking around and telling them what I'd found. Then, during bath time, my wife and daughter were singing jump rope songs and she said that she wanted different ones, so she proceeded to tell her mom how to find some. "Go to google and write jump rope songs and then make it bigger. Okay?"

Christine said...

My daughter thinks that all questions can be answered thru technology. there is no "i'm not sure" that is acceptable...and because of mobile internet, there is no patience for getting the answer. "what do you mean, we're lost? look it up on your iphone" is my current fav.
my other favorite tech moment was when she was explaining hide and seek to a younger kid.."they hide, and then you google them. said...

Jeremy -- We aren't entering the age of collective ownership, we're here. Been here for well over a hundred years. The idea of exclusive ownership has never been as big a part of the world as it's made out to be. Ownership is simply a set of rules about the control of stuff. No publicly traded company is exclusively owned, most shares are not exclusively owned either, they are owned by funds of various kinds. In the end, with ownership so diluted, who "manages" the company is far more important then who owns it. Content is the same, who owns is less important then who manages. said...

On a completely separate note then ideas of "content ownership" is how are kids interacting with technology now. I don't think many parents get it, and nothing here makes me feel otherwise. Your kids are growing up in a world with a different map then yours. Their’s have dead zones, hot spots and cyber-rooms.

The virtual technological world has become simply a part of the the "real world". Basic concepts like space, time and presence are being effected. Where you are, the very boundaries of "you" are shifting. The edges of a teenagers self now extend into cyber-space. Tweens not so much, young adults sometimes live in a very different world.

Concrete examples new problems parents face are cyber-bulling, sexting, inappropriate posts on public forums. --Downloading is part of ownership. -- Online gaming and relationships. I have had to deal with all of these in the last few years. Some of it was hair-raising. I’ve seen good kids leave schools and have to deal with some serious emotional trauma. Nothing happened in the real world.

A pearl of wisdom I was given years ago was that you are going to win and lose every important fight with your kids by the time they are 12. You have that long to do most of your "raising". If your kid is 2 then you have about 10 years left. This covers the brass tacks stuff. Right and wrong, Personal Space, now includes cyber-space. Good personal hygiene habits, viruses are spread by unwashed hands and poor email controls. Study habits, no you really can't study and text and chat at the same time. Attitudes towards work, the boss isn’t paying you to text, and you can’t help me at the store if you are trying to make up with your girl/boyfriend. Basic understandings of race. Appropriate skepticism of BS one sees on the net. If someone sends you an email saying Obama is a muslim terrorist marxist, do you believe them? What if that person is a good friend? What if you are hot for that person?

Are you ready to deal with this??

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Mr. G said...

I have been thinking about this recently too - from an education standpoint. Schools are investing in some pretty nice technology - from interactive white boards to clickers to text books that are completely digital. Is this a response to good instructional strategy or the quest to motivate kids with bells and whistles. Does this technology in the classroom make a difference or is it the new toy on Christmas morning which is forgotten by dinner?

Our 22-month-old already has a much different relationship with technology than her parents do. I believe this will effect how she learns, how she reads and how she socializes.