Friday, July 25, 2008

Kids Online Before Training Wheels Come Off Bikes

It's going to be very interesting to see how children who learned to use the internet before they could read at even a primary school level will change our society in the coming decades :
Almost one in five children began using the the age of five or younger.
The same story reveals that government approved internet content filtering is mostly a very expensive bust, that two-thirds of pre-teen children have some level of parental supervision when they're online and that Australian children now spend more time in social networking sites than in chat rooms.

I can't see such high usage of the net by young children as anything other than positive. Look at the all the reading, writing, typing, thinking, required to navigate the net and use social networking sites. The exposure, from such an early age, to a world of information, and opinion, beyond the local or high school library, or the city newspaper and evening news, can only work wonders in the shaping of a more curious, more questioning, less gullible generation. This generation of under-5s on the net will never be conned so easily by government and corporate media lies and spin as the Baby Boomers or even GenXers were.

Best of all, if you can learn to steer clear of weirdos, perverts and fuckwits by the age of 5 online, you're life as an adult will be far less harassed by those who seek to do you harm or rip you off.

I've watched my nephew, barely five years old at the time, whipping through internet sites looking for free games to play at extraordinary speeds. He could soak up all the information he needed to know about the site he'd hit in what seemed like one or two seconds. I would have needed a nap and a strong coffee to process information that fast, and doubt that I could do it at all.

The web, and computers generally, are no big deal to kids whatsoever. They're born into hospitals crowded with them, ride home in cars equipped with them, live surrounded by toys and households filled with them, and learn to use remote controls and DVD players before they even get colours sorted out.

While minor computer geeks closing in on 40, like me, think the reality of a touch screen home computer is pretty wild, most kids you ask would say "Why's it taking so long?"

I still vividly remember my first real exposure to computers. My high school was one of the first, if not the first, non-private schools in Australia to have a row of glowing green screen Apple computers installed in a classroom. Teachers organised raffles to pay for the computers, but I think Apple basically took a loss to get them in our school. It's still vivid in my mind how utterly awed we were to learn that we could type in (lots of) lines of code and make our own Space Invaders game. An early introduction to programming and piracy.

By the time these online under-5s reach high school, they won't be using keyboards anymore and computer code will seem hilariously prehistoric. Even voice-recognition control will be outdated. They won't have the same horrified resistance as us to having GoogleBrain installed via a small implant.

The question then would not be : How young is too young to go online?

The question will be : I don't want my child to be left behind, but is wi-fi-ing my baby while he's still in the womb as safe as everybody says it is?