Fear of Technology: Why Kids Have Seen It All Before

Technology is a very relative term. What the word referred to one hundred years ago is very different from what is refers to today. One hundred years ago the frightening introduction of a new technology called ‘radio’ was heralded as the “end of conversation”. Nearly five hundred years ago, too many ‘books’ were considered “confusing and harmful” to the brain. Even chess was once seen as “a mere amusement of a very inferior character“.

It’s somewhat comforting to see that there has always been some level of concern (ranging from insane fear mongering through to mild supervision) in the introduction of new technologies. In fact, it may be news to many, but it turns out that the fear of technology is not just an emerging phenomena brought on by iPads and Facebook. In a recent interview, the authors of  Bad for You: Exposing the War on Fun!, Kevin Pyle and Scott Cunningham discussed just how far back this ‘fear of technology’ goes.

Cunningham: In fact, that’s the same complaint that people have had about entertainment for kids from the beginning–and by beginning I mean WAY back in the day… like, Plato’s day. It’s a reoccurring theme–the ultimate “go-to” position that adults take when claiming they are protecting kids from bad influences. It’s the belief that kids have to be protected from scary literature, or comics, or movies or TV or video games, because they’re minds are too unformed to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s made up. Of course, as adults becomes used to whatever the latest–the newest–panic is over, society becomes more relaxed and life goes on. Until the next panic.

This fear is particularly interesting when plotted over time and put into a bit of perspective. In a graphical timeline from the book, it becomes quickly apparent how many pieces of everyday life were once considered harmful to our kids.

Fear of the New - Timeline
Click to enlarge

What is even more interesting is the fact that much of what experts warned us off giving our kids, we now see as essential learning aids. Learning without books, radio, video or internet would now be considered a preposterous thought. But, in years to come, it is inevitable the next big thing will fade our fears of current technologies. In ten years time, will we be telling our children to take out their augmented reality contact lenses and read an iPhone like a normal person? Time will tell.

Cunningham: Just wait. Each new wave of fear over the latest technology that interests kids is just that: a wave. The wave comes, it crests, and then it crashes against the shore and fades away. That’s partly why we chose to create the timelines in the book, like Youth-a-Phobia or Fear of the New, to give a historical view of these hysterical reactions. But with the distance of time, all these panics start to look foolish and quaint.”


For the full story check out the book Bad for You: Exposing the War on Fun! and to read the full interview, visit GeekDadVideo Games, D&D, and Farting on the Bus: Bad for You Is Good for You.


Feature image Scream icon designed by Rémy Médard for The Noun Project.

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