The digital native
I work with social media, and in support of getting people online. I’ve even worked with the UK Digital Champion helping engage the 7 million still not online and enabling them to find ways of overcoming barriers to using technology and in particular the internet, but in reality I’m a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to technology. It was only a year or so ago, when Cambridge had the digital switchover that I was finally forced to acknowledge that there were more than 5 TV channels (and even then I was delighted that my 20 year old telly would work with a box thing so I didn’t have to get a modern flat screen one). I’ve never used a DS or a wii, I loathe households where the TV is on all the time, I have no idea how surround sound music systems work or where to begin with online computer games. I did play Guitar Hero once at a friend’s house but I got confused and gave up quite quickly. I find the idea of a Kindle very hard to comprehend, I love the smell, look, touch and feel of books and to be honest although I do use Spotify, I get totally confused by iTunes and still buy CDs and even from time to time play tapes on my old tape recorder and I still have all my singles up in the attic.
I far prefer wooden toys to plastic toys and was horrified when Hope’s godfather gave her a plastic music cube and her Uncle “you can never have too much plastic”, gave her a plastic mobile phone and a plastic stacking thing … but predictably Hope loves them, and although she does play for quite literally hours with her wooden puzzles, her teddy bears and so on the toy that makes her light up with excitement is the plastic pink toy laptop computer she was given a few weeks back by a friend of mine. She loves the music in these toys and sits and dances to the tunes … she also sits and dances to her own rhythm when she plays with her tambourine and her little drum and when the CD player is on she literally jives to Jools Holland and if I have my computer switched on she points up at it and says, “Bic Bic” … her version of please, until I put ‘Grandma’s Feather Bed’ or ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze Out’ on … then she sits and plays with my business cards and a box of ill assorted objects “Hope’s box” for ages while dancing quietly to herself.
Hope dancing …
Hope gets the concept of the phone, she holds a spectacle case up to her ear and if a phone rings she holds her hand up to her ear … she loves the knitted telephone with a bell in it that Granby gave her … but the thing that makes her look shyly up at me in grateful excitement is when I hand her my phone … my Samsung flat screen touch screen telephone. For all I’m a technical dinosaur I do need a fancy phone, for photos and for work and I’m not often parted from it. My little girl has an app she plays with which puts a xylophone on the phone and she taps the keys, and it wasn’t long before she learnt how to get it out of ‘baby safe mode’ and changed the skin on the app from xylophone to pink piano … she’s done it several times so I know it wasn’t an accident!.
Last night I delivered a talk on social media to a group of people from small local charities … afterwards we were having a drink and a chocolate and chatting and Hope got a little fractious. I handed her my phone and infront of 4 really technical folk and I she went straight to the turn on button at the bottom, when the screen lit up she swiped it to unlock it and she immediately scrolled through the pages to find her favourite picture (one of her sitting in her high chair), she then looked up and said, “baby” and looked down and pressed the picture causing it to zoom in … she zoomed it still further and then looked through the album. The others didn’t believe she had done it so we took the phone away, waited for a minute or two, turned it off and handed it back to her… my little digital native did exactly the same thing again. We were all awed by it. One chap, a lovely and very geeky programmer and developer was flabberghasted and asked if all babies could do that … I have no idea, but I’d imagine that alot can … she’s 14 months old now, and in spite of rarely having the TV on (maybe twice a week) she knows which is the remote control and which button turns the telly on, but it is her adept and very precise way of dealing with my touch screen phone that amazes me, and makes me realise how important it is that she is constantly stimulated and quite how much her small incredible brain is taking in.
Are wooden toys enough? Perhaps as they cause her to use her imagination, they help with dexterity and colour and shape recognition. Does she really need plastic toys? Yes because they are less painful when she throws them and because they have so many functions. Does she want books? Absolutely, every night (literally) she will sit for up to an hour looking through one or two books, turning the pages, kissing the pictures (particularly those of Jesus in her little bible and the picture of the baby penguin in ‘That’s not my Penguin’, and running her finger around the words and shapes. Will I have to drag myself out of my enforced withdrawal form some of the technical world? Yes … Hope will be streets ahead of me in no time at all and while I don’t think I will keep up with her I do need to try … she won’t be bombarded with technology at birthdays and Christmas, she will read the ‘classics’ and get covered in mud and learn different birds and flowers but she is growing up in a digital world and is clearly fascinated by it and already able to interact with and use it.
I was a very proud Mummy last night as she was showing off her technical dexterity … but I also beamed with pride when she crawled all the way across the floor earlier at very high speed and when she managed to stack her little wooden bricks in perfect size and colour stacking order and I love it every time I see her conducting her small group of teddy bears with her wooden spoon. Hope’s Grandmother is just learning to use an iPad mini to communicate with her grandsons overseas and to email … she started that about the same time Hope managed to master the phone swipe … they are both learning at the same time … but my money is on Hope to win fastest learner award and to be teaching her Grandmother and I before she’s two!!