Saturday, July 18, 2009

From Cops and Robbers to Ipods and Touchscreens

There are undoubtedly amazing, mind-blowing products in development at a phone company near you, but I am fairly certain the conversations in their board rooms don’t go quite like the one I was privy to hear yesterday afternoon.

Product Developer: Hey, I think we need an I Flip Touch that is a TomTom.

Bossman: Okay, sounds good. Just make sure that it has directions and maps.

PD: Okay, thanks.

PD (after hanging up and calling a probable co-worker): Hey, we can do it. Call me if you need anything.

Flitting in and out of phone fantasy, my kids created imaginary computers that were the size of a DS with touchscreen capability, along with a flip phone that could hold all the music in the world. Not much entertains me as much as the inner workings of my kids’ brains.

It is an elaborate imaginary game that started three days ago, and has evolved into multiple paper representations of their creations. There are phones stalled in the middle of a brick breaker game, and others that are poised for the multiple texting conversations that have happened in conjunction with the product development. All hand-drawn letters and numbers, cut to shape by a ridiculous pair of clown scissors that they dug out of some box around here. The flip phone design has morphed because the early models kept breaking at the hinge point, turning one square paper phone into two smaller ones. They have set up shop to sell each other these products, printed receipts for purchase and dealt with pretend angry customers because they don’t have in stock what the customer wanted.

My favorite part of this game is that they have assigned each phone a ringtone…produced on demand by my oldest who mans the ipod that is currently connected to portable speakers. He has six phones, with six different ringtones, and personalities to go with them. There is one ringtone for the bossman, another for the co-worker and yet another for the 18-year-old version of himself. Both he and his younger sister can keep straight what mask they should don when a certain ringtone starts blaring, and they get into character immediately.

After pretend conversations on the paper phone, they have reported that a co-worker has been fired or that their mother seems frustrated that she cannot track them down. The game has followed us to the mall, to the park and to a party. They brought in a guest developer while they were playing with their friends, but they have been able to shelve their phones, and the game, when there are real people with whom they can talk.

I suppose I could be concerned about the infatuation with technology, but I would never want to discourage such creativity. It baffles me how much they do know about iphones and ringtones and touchscreens, because neither my husband nor I have an iphone, a song for a ringtone or a touchscreen to speak of. Electronics in our house right now consist of a cell phone for both me and my husband, one ipod for the five of us, 3 portable cd players, a boombox cd player, two laptops, a Tom Tom, a camera, a tv , a camcorder and a Wii. Until I started compiling that list, I really didn’t think we had that much, but I guess we are more plugged in than I thought. I do limit the screen time daily to no more than an hour in the morning and then maybe an hour at night. I monitor what they watch, we talk regularly about internet safety, and they are on their computer games while I am in the room with them. But technology surrounds them.

It is the life they see. Outside of the growing list of products in our house, we buy groceries at touchscreen scanners, and a version of the products they have been pretending to create are all over tv commercials, magazine ads and television shows. A friend of mine put it best when he said, “We (adults) are technology immigrants, they (kids) are technology natives.” It is inevitable that today’s kids will be technologically savvy, and like anything else, it is not inherently bad if there is balance to that passion. Who knows, maybe they will be part of a team that invents the ultimate in handheld technology, and I hope that the ease with which they have made decisions as they’ve played this game will follow them into the corporate world, and more importantly to every relationship they have from here on out.

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