I knew when my girlfriend suggested that we go to DisneyWorld together (I had never been there before, ever...I know, its crazytalk) that this would not only be an opportunity to have basically non-stop fun and get out of Rhode Island's miserable climate but that it could provide a rich source of professional inspiration. I'll have you know, I was more than right on both fronts.
The technology on display at Disney was astounding. Holographic projections, animatronic robots, 4D movie experiences, and cell phone based mobile games were all as plentiful as the pudgy British tourists that had invaded the parks that week. Yet amongst all this techy magic sprinkled around Walt's kingdoms, the technology that stood out the most to me at Disney was the iPhone, and how many freakin little kids were using them!
Two thoughts came to mind as I watched frazzled parents hand their prized 3G's to their toddlers in feeble attempts to calm them down or entertain them: (1) Even in the vast stimulus overload that is DisneyWorld, kids still manage to be bored and (2) What's going to happen when the generation that grew up with iPhones for pacifiers grows up? How will their digital, app-for-everything childhood prime them for the challenges of adulthood? Granted Disney is no place to worry about being an adult, perhaps the parents may have been wondering what affect their mobile device might be having on their tots? Somewhere in between the Peter Pan ride in Magic Kingdom and the countries of Epcot, it hit me that these kids will be so radically different from us when they grow up. It’s a strange feeling being surrounded by thousands of little kids, many of whom used an iPhone as much as me that morning. I suppose it’s impossible to know how massive iPhone exposure at a young age will affect these future adults, but I'm optimistic (albeit cautiously).
- The educational possibilities are glorious. For starters, kids with iPhones will have every answer to every question they could ever have at their fingertips for instant learning. They will never again feel they are asking a stupid question because they simply wont have to ask. While the risk associated with this is that they may develop a¬ detachment from reality as they no longer feel the need to interact with their surroundings or ask others questions, I’m confident the benefits outweigh the risks.
- The sense of autonomy that iPhones give kids could breed a generation of entrepreneurs and great thinkers. Empowering kids by making information more accessible is clearly a noble effort.
- Portable social media is tricky. KinderFacebook could cause little ones to lose touch with communicating with friends face-to-face. On the other hand, the sheer volume of online communications taking place could produce social geniuses! These kids will be capable of managing multiple virtual selves. They will be experts in capturing and sharing experiences with their networks in a variety of media.
- The rich emersiveness of the iPhone will train kids to perceive the world in much more sophisticated ways, all while improving hand/eye coordination.
There are no doubt more potential benefits and pitfalls so let this be a conversation to be continued. I heard recently that this year marks the first graduating college class that was born using the internet. Time will tell how the iPhone babies fare. Thanks for the eye-opener Disney. Oh and thanks for a great vacation too!