6pm at the dinner table.
“Why can’t I get on your server?” asks my 11-year old daughter of my 14-year old son.
“Because it’s just for me, Kinsey and Patrick and my close friends” is his quick response.
With that one statement I realize how easily and deeply my children can shift between the real world and the virtual one. As parents we tend to see their time in cyberspace as 2 dimensional with the distance between their eyes and their monitors as one axis and time wasted as the other axis. Not. Even. Close. Without anything like truly immersive technology they are able to create a tribe, maintain complex rules and interactions, build histories and language.
Our society is on the verge of adding another quantum of technological integration with our everyday lives. Google Glass is an indication of how we will have live access to the web directly fed to our senses. Our parents had to learn about computers, loading and saving files on floppies, windows, and rebooting: those were so simple for us! We had to learn about things like the World Wide Web, texting, social media, and had to watch our parents struggle with them. Guess what? If I don’t start soon my children are going to watch me struggle with online, immersive human interaction. I have enough trouble with doing that in the real world!
I struggle with my son’s time spent online on an almost daily basis. Without parental guidance he might spend 100% of his time online gaming or creating in MineCraft. My wife and I know we are right to enforce time limits and ensure he spends time in the real world, and he is a great kid who enjoys all types of interactions. Vitamin D, physical movement and being in Nature are all critical to his development. At the same time the world we live in, including the virtual one, dictate that he is able to be fluent in what it means to live in a connected world full of inputs from cyberspace. While you won’t see me allowing 7 hours a day blowing stuff up in Call of Duty, the interaction with his tribe online is human evolution in action. I interfere with that at the risk of holding back my son’s future.