At 54 years-of-age, I am very fortunate to be the father of a very beautiful and bright 12-year-old daughter – nothing unusual since all fathers feel the same about their children. Our daughter Hunter attends a school where a laptop is mandatory and, with smart boards in each room, chalk is a thing of past. At first it took me a while to digest the technological innovations that have permeated into the classroom, however it was not long before I realized the world truly is a different place from the one I grew up in. As a right of passage, and reward for a successful previous school year, we hesitantly presented our daughter with a Blackberry in addition to an Apple MacBook. Armed with “BBM” and Facebook, our ‘tween’ was plugged into and became part of the social network.
In the early fall, as a family, we saw the movie ‘The Social Network’ and I was totally amazed at the potential of the Internet when combined with social influence. At the same time, I began to watch my daughter’s grades start to slip. Hunter became edgy and my wife expressed concern as to how tired she was every day when she picked her up from school, suggesting she had to get to bed earlier. Her face was constantly buried in her Blackberry, a slip in marks turned into an avalanche, and it was not long before we figured out that Hunter was sneaking out of bed to go on Facebook to stay in touch with her friends – all 400 plus at last count. Knowing that technology was here to stay, I simply did not understand what was so important to cause such disruption in her life. However I could not ignore the facts.
I was amazed to learn that more than 50 percent of the world’s population is under 30 years-of-age and 96 percent of the millennial’s have joined the social network. Facebook tops Google for weekly traffic in the U.S., social media has overtaken pornography as the #1 activity on the web, and one of eight couples married in the U.S. met via the internet.
As a barometer of the penetration of technology in our society, one simply needs to ponder that it took 38 years for radio to reach 50 million people. Television accomplished this in 13 years, while the internet took only four and the iPod did it in three; with more than 1 billion application downloads in nine months. Facebook added over 200 million users in less than a year, with the fastest growing segment being 55-65 year old females. If Facebook were a country, it would be the 3rd largest behind China and India. As well, there are more than 60 million status updates daily, which may explain why 50 percent of the mobile internet traffic in the U.K. is used for Facebook.
Generation Y and Z consider email passé, while some universities have stopped providing e-mail accounts in favour of distributing e-readers, iPads, and tablets. It is of interest to note that the U.S. Department of Education revealed that online students out perform those receiving face to face instruction. Kindle e-books outsold paper books at Christmas and, to the detriment of traditional media, 24 out of 25 of the largest newspaper companies are experiencing record declines in circulation.
If the above isn’t enough to make you pause, consider that YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world, and over 100 hours of video will have been uploaded in the time it took you to read this editorial. Moreover, Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears have more Twitter followers than the entire population of Sweden, Israel, Switzerland, Norway, and Panama.
‘Wiki’ is a Hawaiian term for quick. Wikipedia has over 15 million articles with studies showing it as accurate as the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Seventy eight percent of the articles are non English. It should be noted that if one was paid $1 for every article posted they would earn $1,712.30 per hour.
The unavoidable facts only convinced me more that, if the velocity of information, communication, and technology were expanding at an exponential rate, drastic measures were required. It meant guerrilla warfare and, if all else failed, hand to hand combat. First order of business was to cancel the Facebook account and to give Hunter an easy out by allowing her to tell everyone it was her father who stood in the way of her popularity. Next, severely curtail the amount of time her digits were fattening Ma Bell’s coffers. With that move I had unleashed the wrath of a tween; however I was now convinced that I was on the right track when Hunter told me I was a “horrible parent”!
After a short while, calm was restored. Our usual engaging daughter was alert on the ride home from school. No more snapping and, within a short while, her marks returned to their usual levels. Hunter doesn’t seem to miss Facebook but still craves BBM anytime she can. I still don’t understand what she thinks she is going to miss, but after letting the above facts sink in, maybe it is “I” who may be missing something. OHW