Digital Childhood

How will Digital Natives change the way we think about technology in future?

It’s Saturday morning. I’ve been tasked with tidying up the living room, as we have friends coming over later – and apparently we can’t expect them to tip toe over the Lego train set on the floor…

My first job: clean the TV screen. I know; you’re probably thinking that can’t be the most important thing to clean, but you should see the state of it! The reason it’s so dirty is my kids think they can change the channel by swiping the screen… and here begins the realisation that they’re growing up in the Digital Age.

They’re so used to touch, swipe and voice recognition that they just expect everything to work that way. My three-year-old son watches Peppa Pig via YouTube on an iPad. He can’t read, he can’t spell, but he’s worked out that by tapping the microphone symbol on the search box, he can say “Peppa Pig” and be presented with a list of videos to watch. I’m beginning to wonder if he’ll ever want to read and write!

I like my tech, but I didn’t grow up with an expectation – even a reliance – on it, but times have changed. We need to make sure we’re thinking about how these Digital Natives will expect to interact with us as they mature, get their first ClubCard, do their first shop, and open their first bank account. At first I was reluctant to let my kids loose with technology, but now I’ve embraced it, and it is really making a difference. It’s great for education (spelling, reading and maths apps are great), it’s great for on demand content, and it’s great for gaming.

What sets digital natives apart is a willingness to try, a lack of fear, and a ruthless attitude to technology. They’ll give it a go, and if it works for them great; if it doesn’t, it’s thrown on the scrap-heap and forgotten about forever! This applies to both hardware and software (especially mobile applications), and when something gains momentum – be it positive or negative – it spreads like wildfire over social media. I can’t work out if it’s an amazing time to be an application developer, or a daunting one: there are no second chances now. Digital Natives are a great source of inspiration for me, and I’m lucky I can make a difference by investigating technology for Tesco to cater to what they’ll expect in the future.

Another major source of inspiration for me is film. I’m fascinated by how film production has developed as I’ve grown up – especially computer animated film. I’m also fascinated with the technology in sci-fi/futuristic films, and how much of it will become reality. Robots, Self-Driving Cars, Gesture Interfaces, Voice Control, Holographic Displays and Augmented Reality are all technologies I’ve been introduced to through film, and have ended up investigating for real as part of my job. My favourite question to ask our partners and vendors is, ‘What was the last film you watched where the plot had a technology that made you go, “Wow!”?’

No prizes for guessing that Minority Report, iRobot and Avatar are popular answers… drop us a line and tell us your favourite.

Image credit: Steve Paine. Original image can be found here.

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