There have been many debates about technology and its impact on home life and other relationships. Specifically, the use of the internet (and various media platforms available through an internet connection) has been a main focal point for many researchers as technology has evolved and become a major part of household life.
Take my home, for example. Currently my home contains five people (mum, dad, brother, sister and me). Between these people there are a total of 16 technological/media devices (TVs, laptops, iPads/tablets, smart phones and computers). There is one data plan for the household, with a monthly download allowance of 200GB. Each of us have separate data allowances on our mobile phone plans, however when we are at home we connect to the home broadband via Wi-Fi. At the moment our broadband connection is extremely slow. My mum and dad used words like “shocking”, “abysmal” and “the worst in the world” when I asked them what they thought of the speed of our internet. The NBN isn’t available in our area, so unfortunately that isn’t an option for us.
What I find amusing about our “abysmal” connection speed is the different opinions of my family members. Although my mum and dad did describe the speed as “the worst in the world”, when I asked them when it most annoyed them they admitted it wasn’t really bothering them that much. What was bothering my mum and dad most was my 17-year-old brother’s endless complaining about the terrible internet speed. This is an example of what different generations have come to expect from broadband connections and internet speed. My brother is used to a fast speed and is annoyed about the now very slow speed. However, my mum and dad are used to slow internet connections, or at least remember them from the dial-up days. According to my mum the internet speed at our house isn’t even that bad. As she put it “if you want the worst internet speed in the world all you have to do is go to your grandparent’s house.”
This is an example of what younger generations have come to expect of technology and the internet in their home (faster speed and better quality). ABS statistics also support this trend:
“Almost every household with children under 15 years of age had access to the internet at home (96%), as compared to 78% of households without children under 15 years of age in 2012–13” (2012-13).
Another example of an increased use and understanding of technology by younger generations is my boyfriend’s little sister. She just turned six and is the most tech-savvy six-year-old I know. One day she saw my boyfriend and I sending Snapchats to each other in the same room (yet another example of how things have changed in the networked home) and she walked in. She saw that we were sending silly pictures and drawings and automatically wanted to “play too”. Next thing we knew she had added us from a Snapchat account she had made on her mum’s phone. From that day on my boyfriend and I received countless Snapchats of this funny little six year old. We got bored of it fairly quickly, but she thought it was the funniest game in the world.
Until my media class, I guess I didn’t really think twice about this behaviour. It was normal for her and her eight-year-old brother to want every game or app that we had on our phones. They would play on the iPad or on their mum’s phone when they were allowed. But now I realise this behaviour is a glimpse into every future home, or even many current homes. Use of technology and media through the internet is going to be a huge part of every young person’s future, and all future generations. They will grow up with it, not ever understanding how older generations could have lived without it. The question many researchers are asking now is:
“Is this a bad thing? Will this have a negative impact on future generations?”
Researchers such as Sherry Turkle and Danah Boyd have different opinions when it comes to these questions. Turkle is worried about people (teens in particular) being connected online, but alone in reality, meaning that internet connectivity may lead to disconnected physical relationships that don’t exist online. Boyd, on the other hand, tries to explain things from the teen’s perspective. While many others are worrying about what teens are doing online, she asks teens about their online activity to try to get a better understanding of the practices of youth as they “try to find themselves in a networked world” (2014, p. xi).
In my opinion, people will make mistakes as they go and learn from them in time. This is uncharted territory. We can’t make assumptions about the future based on the small amount of data that we have found. Things will continue to change as the world continues to evolve technologically. The best we can do is try to nudge our youth in what seems to be the right direction.
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2014, Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2012-13, cat. no. 8146.0, accessed 22 August 2014, <2B4C241B1D0D7691CA257C89000E3F61>.
Boyd, D 2014, It’s Complicated, Yale College, USA.
Turkle, S 2012, Connected, but alone?, vodcast, February, TED, viewed 22 August 2014, <http://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together>.