He doesn’t listen to me anymore. It’s almost as if he doesn’t need me.
It’s all my fault. Actually… it’s my iPhone’s fault.
I gave him my phone to play with when he was two and a half. Instead of putting it in his mouth, or throwing it across the room like I feared, he swiped to unlock and started rifling through apps
He was good at it.
Like, really good.
As I watch my infant son navigate a touch screen like he was born to it, which he technically has been, I start to wonder what a typical day in our house will look like in just a few short years, when he is eleven:
(I know this is just an article, so we’ve got a limited special effects budget, but picture swirly video effects indicating a flash forward to 2022…)
“Aaryan, it’s Monday tomorrow. Do you need help getting your homework ready?”
“No dad, it’s finished. I got help from someone else.”
I subdued the normal parental paranoia that comes from thinking about ‘stranger danger’, and wondering what kind of creep would go door to door, helping someone else’s children with their math homework.
“I asked the Internet. Someone in Belgium helped me.”
Oh…. Belgium, huh? Okay.
And here’s a sample from another imaginary conversation a little earlier in the week:
“Aaryan, what time is your soccer game tomorrow? I’ll come home early and take you and your friends.”
“It’s at 2pm, but don’t worry about it. I have a ride already.”
“Oh, with Mark’s parents?”
It’s at this point that he looks up from the glowing touchscreen with a look on his face that is clearly a mix of condescension and pity.
“No dad… I reserved a driverless GUBER vehicle on my phone five minutes ago. It’ll be here at one, and it’s picking up Melissa and Jacob on the way, so we can all go together.”
Oh…. GUBER. Gotcha.
“Well, that’s great, I’ll bring the snacks!”
Let’s see a driverless car try to prepare and pack carrot sticks, hummus, orange wedges and crustless egg mayo sandwiches… They can’t do that yet. Can they?
“Don’t worry…. I’ve already ordered the soccer special from postmates.”
Oh… Well that takes care of that then.
Of course, my fantasy doesn’t stop there. This integration with technology even extends to the soccer field itself:
“Dad! Did you see how many times I scored?”
“Yeah.. I got the push notifications, thanks.Two goals is amazing, though! Great job Aaryan!”
But dinner time shouldn’t have changed all that much, right? The family still sits down together to enjoy an evening meal and…
“Tah-dah! Aaryan, I made your favourite… Homemade pizza!”
“Oh um… Thanks dad… But did you use the low-carb, paleo recipe I sent you with the cauliflower crust?”
“What?… No…. And you never gave me a …”
“No biggie…I just sent it to the 3D Printer… It should be hot and ready in 10 minutes. But you’re welcome to start with that one so long… you know, assuming your glycaemic load doesn’t matter to you.”
Okay, so there are a still a few more years to go before my son chastises me for how I make a homemade pizza base. So far it’s still his favorite (touch wood).
Time for sleep. Finally something that won’t involve technology
“Aaryan! It’s time for sleep. You can’t watch a movie because I don’t want you to wake up your brother and sister.”
“That’s OK Dad. I’ll use my Avegant Glyph to watch it instead. That way no one else will be bothered by light or sound.”
“You’re going to use your what?”
“C’mon dad. Get with the times. It’s a virtual retinal display that delivers life-like images directly into my eye.”
But how far off from our present reality are these conversations, really?
As you can tell, I’m already preparing to feel like an increasingly obsolete part of our family… but there are no doubts in my mind that these conversations will be more common in your household too.
Considering you can already crowdsource your homework, order anything on demand, Google and Uber are head-to-head on releasing a driverless car, Avegant is in product development of a device too sophisticated to even call it Virtual Reality, and 3D printing food has already been touted as the next big tech trend we’ll all soon be ordering from the menu.
All Roads Lead to Mobile
No matter your take on how kids and teens use mobile, you can’t discount the fact that device penetration, and this young audiences’ comfort using them, are both growing at an incredible pace.
You might love your phone, but your kids love it more, and being raised on touchscreens, they are taking our idea of ‘early adopters’ to a whole new level…. Namely, kindergarten.
From the graph above, it’s clear that kids believe that they need their devices on them at all times. 84% Of teens ages 15-18 have a cell phone now, and so do 60% of their tween peers (ages 10-14).
What does this mean for you and your family?
Is your kid really going to hate you because he/she prefers their iPhone? Of course not.
What this means is that tasks that you’re used to supporting your children with will be augmented by the ease of mobile.
Taking your phone away from your child is not the long term solution
Mobile solutions are becoming more prolific because they save us time, and often money, and allow us to do better, more productive things with our time.
But I do believe that sometimes you have to say “enough is enough” if you start noticing that their behavior is impacted simply because they are on their phones all the time.
It’s just like the television. It’s not fair to call it the ‘idiot box’ when you and your kids are gathered in front of it to watch an HD journey through the wonders of the arctic wilderness, courtesy of Sir. David Attenborough.
It’s all about balance.
Teach them about the journey
It’s all about the journey, not the destination. Sure, 3D-printing a (paleo) pizza is going to get you a pizza in the end, but it will never replace the joy of working together to create something from scratch. Even if you did have to look up that recipe for the cauliflower crust on Pinterest.
Empower them to learn how to create things for mobile
In the future, your kids could be using their phones to 3D print a pizza… Or they could be using their phones to design an emission-free pizza oven that also cleans public drinking water as it melts mozzarella.
To paraphrase Ayn Rand, mobile is just a tool. It will never replace you (or your kids) as the user.
I know you might think I’m crazy, but trust me when I say that this is all coming very soon. There are 500,000 open tech jobs right now, and our kids, regardless of the industry they choose to work in, will need to have an intimate understanding of mobile technology.
Getting your kid involved in the mobile revolution is the best thing you could do right now.
But don’t worry about getting replaced by the iPhone just yet. Technology might be cutting down on your list of parenting chores, but there isn’t an app out there that can make your kids roll their eyes and groan quite like a good old-fashioned dad joke… Behold:
What is Beethoven’s favorite fruit? A ba-na-na-na.
Let’s see Siri beat that.
Ashish Toshniwal is the CEO and Co-Founder of Y Media Labs. Y Media Labs, which has been recognized as one of the top mobile app development firms globally. Their clients include Staples, EMC, Credit Karma, Stubhub, Paypal, Nom Nom Paleo and Montessorium.