Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Infants and tech

Scientists have been unable to fix a point at which babies achieve consciousness. Some have determined that humans generally achieve consciousness at about 5 months after birth. This is consistent with my observations of my daughter, Emily. For most of the first 5 months, she seemed to be unaware of her surroundings and very keen on getting her own immediate needs met. Food, sleep, diaper, mom. Not necessarily in that order, but it was repeated seemingly at random.

5 months of irregular sleep for the parents later, we see that Emily is not only aware of her surroundings, she is starting to see things that she wants. She likes shiny things that reflect light. She also likes translucent things with color, like a green Perrier bottle. She has also seen her parents watching screens. Big screens and little screens. She likes them, too.

We started by just showing her the weather report on our computer. Pretty innocent, right? So there's Sterling, the local weather guy on KUTV, giving us the news on the latest storm brewing across the Wassatch Front. I watch Emily and notice that she is apparently transfixed with the moving images. She hears the voices and seems to connect them to the events on the screen.

My wife, Alice, has found many YouTube videos that provide lullabies, alphabets and songs I used to sing as a kid. Emily loves that Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star video. You know, the one with the owl and the star? So cute and calming. Except that they don't tell little kids that owls are predators and that they hunt rodents at night.

Anyway, along with all that, Emily has developed a fascination with our smart phones. She sees us playing games with the phones, checking email, watching videos, checking the weather. What does she want to do? She wants to put the phone in her mouth, you know, like everything else.

My experience has prompted me to wonder how she will adapt to the tech that she lives with as she grows up. Probably much like the kids raised by my sibs: they use tech frequently, are often ahead of the curve relative to their parents and are quite comfortable with the tech.

One thing I can say for sure: Emily will not see Windows running in our home. Not even a Mac. There is nothing but Linux here and she will learn more about computers with Linux than she ever will with Mac or Windows. Why? Mac and Windows try to hide how the computer works from users. Linux encourages us to peek inside and find out what's happening.

There are Linux distributions for everything and more than a few of them are designed for education with variations for different age groups. The most famous is Edubuntu. These Linux distributions teach math, typing, reading, writing, science, music and the list goes on. There is some pretty amazing stuff out there.

For now, though, we can only imagine the technology that will be available when she becomes a teenager. What will she do with that tech? Who knows? But I will teach her that technology is not what makes us happy. Tech can facilitate happiness, but it doesn't make us happy.

Technology is not capable of love. A computer can't love you like a father, mother or brother or sister or a friend. Cell phones have love only for the carriers, like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.

People are where the love is at. It is with people that we find humanity, fellowship and peace. Technology just helps us to connect to others in ways we could not without the tech.

These are just a few of the things I hope to teach Emily.
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