Saturday, June 12, 2010

Digital kid

My daughter started using an iPod Touch just short of age three -- somewhere a bit past two and a half. We didn't have to restrict the internet because she didn't really know how to spell and didn't care about the browser working -- just being able to type and click icons and have it play songs and videos was enough. Of course, this is unfathomable to people that grew up not watching television until they were ten or in their teens; people that maybe had a single house phone growing up.

At nearly 5 years old she's now on to the most current version of the iPod Touch. Although she hasn't done it herself (though she probably could if I let her play around with it), she's selected the music that's on it (based on recognition of the covers in coverflow, not necessarily the names of the bands/songs) and she's selected the videos that are on it (movies and television shows, including every episode of Phineas and Ferb with the commercials edited out). Through the App Store she has selected several games that she enjoys playing and she's got some amount of understanding about how YouTube works; interestingly the Notepad is one of her favorite applications right now as she loves to practice her spelling.

Even though she hasn't specifically complained about the lack of voice functionality, she refers to the iPod as her "phone" (just like the iPhones that both of us have). One of her favorite things, if she gets her hands on one of our phones (believe me, navigating the password locks for her is not a problem) is to use the camera -- clearly this is going to be an issue if the next generation has a camera and she sees it in the Apple Store. There are some apps that she seems to want, but thankfully, although she's able to get all the way through the purchase process on the App Store, she's yet to learn that password, so we haven't yet seen any massive App Store bills.

There's an interesting dynamic in discipline that goes along with the digital kid: the removal of apps and/or audio/video content can be powerful sticks or carrots. Given the fact that all of the apps and content are backed up in iTunes, digital discipline is easy to execute and even easier to reverse as appropriate.

It's hard to imagine that she'll be telling the "when I was kid when only had iPod Touches with wifi" conversation with her kids, but she probably will. And in that vein, here goes a few of my "when I was your age" for her:
  • One phone in the house -- didn't get my own line until I was 13. Now we don't even have a home phone; when you need to talk to someone you either do it via video iChat or use one of our cellphones. Chances are good that you'll have your own cellular voice device at a pretty young age.
  • Apple II was the computer that I grew up with; I got a Mac when I was 11 or 12 and the processor in that Mac is less powerful that the one in your iPod Touch. You currently have access to more raw computing power in our house than they use in the space shuttle.
  • Until college, the most sophisticated device on my belt was a pager and it didn't have a keyboard. The phone device that you know how to use has the same functionality as my pager and it's considered an extremely minor feature at the bottom of the list behind a million others.
  • Once I got my own phone line at age 13, I got a modem and was able to dial in to the internet at 14.4kbps to a local university that gave out free dial-in accounts; Mosaic and Netscape browser (the visual web) didn't come out until I was 15. You have access to the visual internet, streaming audio, streaming video, and all of it comes to the house where it's available wirelessly at a connection speed of 5mbps to the internet and 100mbps on our internal network.
  • I had thousands of CDs (they look just live DVDs) and eventually got a player that allowed me to load multiple CDs at the same time. The music collection at our house is over 30,000 tracks and you can load a ton of them on your iPod, listen to them in any room of the house, and there's nearly unlimited storage for more.
As Seth Godin said in his recent post: "I saw a two-year old kid (in diapers, in a stroller), using an iPod Touch today. Not just looking at it, but browsing menus and interacting. This is a revolution, guys."

Sooner or later I'll be lame and behind the times and not understand what new technology she's into. For now I'm happy to be able to write about it.

PS -- the first thing she said when she saw my iPad: "Is that for me?"

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