Then vs. Now – Did Technology Shape Our Childhood?

When I think about it, it’s easy to recognise that my childhood is completely different compared those growing up today. For my final assessment of BCM241 ‘Digital Narrative & Research,’ I’m willing to look deeper than the books. I believe that over the past decade or more, the technological advancements have shaped the way children interact with the media. My interest in this topic sparked when earlier this semester we looked at the recollection of memories with the media; television memories in particular and how our involvement with the media has a much larger impact on us than we think.

The focus of my research is to find out how the technological interaction between today’s generation (then) and those being brought up in today’s tech society (now) has differentiated. In doing so, I conducted a survey where I asked University students their thoughts and opinions on the topic and to share their own memories of growing up with less technology. I also conducted an interview to find a different perspective. Gathering information from other individuals will increase the value of my research as I have gained knowledge into how technology’s advancements have changed the way used to interact versus how we interact today.

When reminiscing on my own childhood, if I recall correctly I remember receiving my first mobile phone at the age of 12 or 13 and it was mainly used to keep in contact with my friends and family. In terms of the internet, I remember nagging mum to let me make a Facebook account so I could play the games; Farmville (the best), Pet Aquarium and all the others. I remember being one of the very first in my year group to join the social media space and immediately became addicted. But before devices and the internet, I grew up with grazes on my knees and endless hide and seek games. My street grew up together; about 30 kids all around the same age, so my childhood was never boring. I still hold onto the memories of the treehouse building and the endless summer nights storming the streets on our bikes. My childhood was something I cherish because it allows me to look back on these days and discover how much times have REALLY changed.

For my research, I created a short survey where I asked fellow students to answer questions and share their opinions on the topic question. The survey provided insights of data where I can grasp an idea of whether or not students also recognise the shift in technological interaction within younger generations. Some of the survey questions I included were:

  • What age did you receive your first mobile phone/device?
  • When did you start using a computer/the internet?
  • What purpose did you use these devices for?
  • What activities were you participating in before you began using technology? (Earliest memories)

The survey is a tool to recognise the changes in interaction across a selection of age ranges. Although 60% of the survey participant’s age ranged between 18 – 20 and the other 40% were aged between 20 – 25 this provided insight that participants (the same ages as me) would have the same ideas on the topic.

The survey data I collected from students included a variety of data when students responded to the question: ‘In a few words, what purpose were you using devices or the internet for once you received them?’ where 14 of the 29 respondents claimed they were using them to stay in contact with friends or family or interacting through chatrooms (MSN, Myspace etc.)

In order to differentiate the data, I asked my cousin, Stacey who is a single mother of two daughters. I sat down with Stacey and asked her questions about the interaction her daughters have with devices and the internet.

Why do you choose to use technology with her two young daughters who are at such a young age?

‘I got the girls their first iPads for Christmas in 2015. All year they had been bugging me to get them one because all their friends had them and now with schools incorporating devices in the classroom (even in primary schools) it became more of a need rather than a want.’

Can you see the difference between growing up in your generation versus the girls?

‘Yes, when I was growing up we had none of this tech stuff, we had to make our own fun. Being 1 of 4 siblings, there was never a dull moment with all the dancing around the house and annoying mum and dad. If I can remember, the only technology we had was dad’s old video recorder which we used to make music videos to our favourite artists.’

Finally, do you think because of today’s society the girls are drawn to technology a lot more because they are constantly exposed to it?

‘Yeah, I mean I feel as if there wasn’t AS MUCH technology then the girls would be outside doing more activities. You could even say that because there aren’t many other kids out playing anymore (unlike when I was growing up) they aren’t driven to go run around because it’s not “normal” anymore.’ 

After talking to Stacey, it became clear that technology has taken control over the activities children participate in. She even said that children their age are also crazy over YouTube and Instagram as everything looks ‘fun’ she said. It’s clear that the younger generations are interacting with technology a lot more within the last decade. Getting insights on the activities of her two children draws upon my research to become applicable to the topic question.

Analysing the survey data and after talking with my cousin, I was able to combine the opinions and find common ground. The two types of data conclude that those who grew up with less technology are aware that there is a drastic change with children growing up today. The discussion of the limited use of technology back in the day and the focus on outside activities accounts to the overall topic question.

Gianna Pisano’s article The Impact of Technology on The Younger Generation’ discusses the advantages and disadvantages of younger children being constantly surrounded by the tech world. She states that; “…kids are also more likely to follow what they see. For example, if they see their older sibling or parent constantly on their phone or laptop, they will do the same…”. Pisano discusses the advantages of technology as innovative and has made it easier for educators to strive as it becomes interactive for children. Her statements of disadvantages talk about how children are slowly becoming dependent, technology’s overuse and reliance as they grown into adulthood. This source evidently partners with my interview with my cousin where she states that her daughters are more aware of the influencers (us) and are drawn to ‘want’ or ‘need’ devices and technology. It’s almost like it’s become not just a necessity, but it’s become an addiction.

Beyond my research, I was always curious about whether or not other people were able to see the shift in childhood upbringing and this drove me to want to find the answers. I was surprised by the effectiveness of the survey results as it made other people’s opinions valuable to my research. From these answers, I could draw a timeline that would show how due to the growth of technology we became somewhat more involved with the tech world without realising it. The interview with my cousin drew conclusions that there is a differentiation between younger and older generations. Our conversation about her two younger daughters showed me that children are almost “alienating” themselves from the rest of the world. Natalie Hanman’s piece ‘Growing up with the Wired Generation‘ talks about a form of alienating within the 21st-century children. Hanman reflects on how technology has made interacting with one another easier and how technology “…displaces the real with the virtual…” with devices etc. The responses underlined that as technology grew, the number of children interacting in person is declining.

Concluding my research narrative, I have been able to successfully answer my topic question: ‘Then vs. Now – Did Technology Shape Our Childhood?’ thanks to the data, I have collected. Analysing the effects of technology growth over the years, the older generations can now see the changes it has on those being born in today’s modern society. My own childhood upbringing was formed by bike riding and the street games, whereas today, parents are finding it harder and harder to get their children not just outside but away from their iPads and Xbox’s. There are many ways to evidently show how technology has affected children of the younger generation. I believe with my research, there is a chance to reminisce on what we (the old guys) had and have an open mind to just HOW MUCH technology affects our lives. The concept of media, audience and place plays a key role in my research. It’s when a form of media is introduced to us whether we choose to play a role as an audience it becomes a huge part of our lives. When technology was placed into our hands, it was only very limited but fast-forwarding 10 years and children are now interacting on platforms before the age of 5. Children these days didn’t have the Webslider’s, the Marble Blast game or the endless hours of fun covering the road in chalk. Technology is a game changer, I’ll never be letting go of my memories, you can’t save those to your iPhoto gallery.

References: 
Pisano. G, 2016, ‘The Impact Of Technology On The Younger Generation’, Odyssey Online, 6th June 2016, viewed 28th October 2017. Available at: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/impact-technology-younger-generation
Hanman, N. 2005, ‘Growing up with the wired generation’, The Guardian, 10th November 2017, viewed October 30th, 2017. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2005/nov/10/newmedia.media
Survey via: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9DFV6D9
Interviewee (Stacey) consented to use data for research
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