The distinctive text tone on my phone rings. It is the middle of the night, and I reach for both my glasses and my phone to see what was is so important. It is a short message, “Hi Daddy,” followed by a lot of emoticons. A second later, a follow up “selfie” picture of my daughter and a drawing that she made of the two of us arrives. I smile and text back, “I love you. I’m going back to sleep. 4a.m. here.” I know it is a more reasonable 4p.m. back at home all the way on the other side of the planet. But in that moment it felt a lot closer.
It probably isn’t surprising that my kids have grown up techies, like me. As a result they have had (carefully monitored) access to the latest technologies. This has made the distance between them and me shrink dramatically. I travel a fair amount for work and the ability to casually connect with them on a daily basis through electronic messaging while I’m out of town has meant that we don’t have to catch up on nearly as much when I return., Sometimes we exchange messages rapidly in real time, other times we may lag several hours while one of us is asleep (or should be asleep). Yes, there was another time when I was out of town exchanging messages with my son after everyone else in the house was asleep and I had to convince him it was time for bed.
It isn’t always about bridging great distances, though. The messages from my kids can be nearly as comforting when I’m simply at the office and haven’t seen them since breakfast. I often note these incoming messages during a meeting, and eagerly await reading those messages as I walk out the door. This is a big advantage over phone calls -- all of the messaging can take place when we want.
But as much as I’ve appreciated the easy communication with my kids, it hasn’t always been easy to establish. Many messaging services are restricted to children over the age of 13. Even when they can get on, I have to go through significant efforts to lock down their accounts and make sure that they are corresponding only with approved adults and kids. But many of their peers either don’t use such communication because it is too much of a hassle or wind up on systems that leave them with unrestricted access.
That is why I was happy to see the emergence of new technologies like VTech Kid Connect, a new communication app that brings families together even when they are apart, and is designed from the ground up for a younger audience. With tablet-to-mobile communication capabilities, it makes staying in touch with your kid both safe and easy. This is a big relief for many parents who no longer need to set up complicated systems, or question the safety of their kids online.
I know there are skeptics out there who are still thinking, “No thanks, I don’t want text messaging destroying my kids’ ability to write.” Well, those skeptics are in good company. Thousands of years ago, Socrates lamented the popular spread of written language, worrying that it would weaken people’s memory and intelligence. And through time, others have similarly worried about the impact on human intelligence from emerging technologies such as the printing press and the Internet. Each of these advances has certainly changed the way we communicate, but when we use these technologies appropriately, their impact is immensely positive.
Similarly, new modes of communication like messaging can also be positive, if we learn to use them properly and embrace their role in our everchanging world. And there is no better time than the present to teach our kids those positive uses.