My 23-month-old son knows and loves Barney, Elmo, Mickey, Dora, Diego, Grover. He is learning his letters and numbers on Youtube. And he is constantly grabbing for my iPhone. But, all the while, there is this little voice in me wanting him to unplug, play and be free, explore, get bored even. It is in that quiet time that the human mind explores and creates.
Unfortunately, he had no say in the matter. Defined as those born 2000+, “Binary Generation” members have their birth dates written in code and their brains learning how to interact with a world increasingly driven by technology. Today’s tykes, like my son, are as iPhone obsessed as their parents, if not more so. Maybe it is because of its intuitive nature, or maybe it is because of the number of apps that cater to toddlers, but it makes me wonder: what is the technology tipping point?
I vividly remember my first piece of technology in the 70’s. It was called Blockbuster and I played it so much, the touch pad deteriorated into a bumpy wasteland. In the 80’s, my relationship with technology heightened to learning how to use a computer, F-1 here, F-4 there. Old school indeed but exciting, not so much.
Nowadays, technology is both ubiquitous and inviting, always within touching distance. As a child of the 70’s, I had a lot of freedom. The doors were never locked and a spud game was usually on in the neighborhood. Today’s kids are practically exposed to technology in the womb and communicate via screens more than face to face. For The Binary Generation, technology is omnipresent in their homes, the schools, cars, everywhere.
Now, I love technology as much as the next guy but, I also fondly remember vegging out for hours in front of the boob tube or playing my beloved Blockbuster. In those moments, one doesn’t truly engage. The connection is more of a falsehood, programmed and calculated, not real and human.
Which is why, when my son cries “compuper, compuper!!”, I know what I’m up against as a parent. But, as branders, I believe we also carry a responsibility to deliver on experiences in the products we market. Humans crave technology but what will resonate in the memory banks of today’s kids? A facebook post or running around outside with their friends? Only the future will show us what hours of passive engagement does to a developing mind. My instinct is that members of The Binary Generation will be our guinea pigs.