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Go with tech's flow -- but also say 'no'

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Kai-Huei Yau/Tri-City Herald/AP

(Read caption) Children play – technology-free – on the new ‘boundless’ playground in Pasco, Wash.

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Pliny the Elder almost certainly made Pliny the Younger’s eyes roll when he started a sentence with “When I was a kid.” There’s always a new fad, technology, dance move, turn of phrase, fashion trend, or funky hairstyle that makes kids today seem less respectful, energetic, intelligent, creative, or ambitious than they were back in the day.

Cranking up the Beatles and Beach Boys on the family hi-fi sent my dad up the wall in the 1960s. The preacher at a pal’s church warned young people away from “paperbacks,” meaning books with racy content such as fast driving, jazzy talking, and – possibly, somewhere, actually on page 53, I think – a tame-by-today’s-standards scene or two involving smooching.

It seems there’s always trouble in River City. If it’s not pool halls, it’s comic books. Also: TV, movies, sideburns, bell-bottoms, and pretty much all new music beginning in the 1950s and continuing up to and including what was on the radio this morning. Every new wrinkle brings with it concern about what it is doing to kids today. That this happens again and again doesn’t mean the concerns aren’t valid. Technology is always faster and more frictionless. Standards and values are always being assaulted. What a kid can see on a smart phone ranges from useful to appalling. 

In a Monitor cover story, Stephanie Hanes examines the “touch-screen generation” – children born in the age of the iPad, iPhone, and other devices that have made machine interactivity a near universal experience. With a swipe, flick, or touch, even toddlers can immerse themselves in the world of apps. What this is doing to them varies child by child and family by family. Some kids are going down the rabbit hole of entertainment and amusement. Some are being guided to educational destinations. 

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