Dear Grandparenting: I especially enjoy reading your columns about the influence of technology on our grandchildren. I am at a total loss when it comes to stuff like the Internet and so-called “smart” phones that I never bothered to learn, and now I’m afraid it is too late.
I am not a big fan of this technology either. Did you get a load of the latest dumb Internet fad going around with kids? I am told it’s called the Tide pod challenge. Kids dare each other to eat toxic Tide laundry pods. Their next stop is the emergency room. Kids share videos about it on the Internet.
I heard on the news where some of the companies that control how the Internet operates are thinking of making big changes. Apparently the idea is to make the Internet a gentler, kinder place. Please explain. May Brown, Waynesboro, Pennsylvania
Dear May: A backlash against the social ills of digital technologies, so often borne by grandchildren, has simmered for years.
Grandparents are hardly the only ones alarmed by the abiding presence of smart phones and social media in the lives of America’s youth. Reports of negative outcomes — bullying and hateful speech, suicides and porn fixations, depression and loss of self-esteem, dining on Tide pods and all the rest — are staples of the news.
And all the while, tech giants employ armies of specialists working to engage tech users even more, hour after hour. Critics contend smart phones are designed to be addictive, instruments of instant gratification that can impede development of social and relationship skills and outside interests.
Corporations and big investors used to just talk the talk about becoming better public citizens. Now a few digital giants are edging closer to actually walking the walk toward greater social responsibility.
Earlier this month, FaceBook announced its intention to take steps to increase “meaningful interactions” (especially with friends and family) between its more than 2 billion users and decrease content pushed by news purveyors, brands, nonprofits and others. Already under fire for its role in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 Presidential election, FaceBook “wants to make sure our products are not just fun, but are good for people,” explained its billionaire founder Mark Zuckerberg.
About the same time as FaceBook’s announcement, tech titan Apple received an open letter from heavyweight investors encouraging the company to work toward bettering its impacts on youth. And while that remains to be seen, industry leader Apple has the resources to begin to curb the dependence on phones and other gizmos that ensnare grandchildren. Others will follow.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Vin Nelson, of Sidney, Ohio, reports he can count on his grandchildren’s joking around about his declining memory.
“I can handle it,” says Vin. “I remind them I happen to be perfect at remembering important things, like phoning them to see what’s happening when they haven’t checked in with me for a while.”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.