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Nickelodeon and “The Digital Family”

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Over the past several years, digital technology and the new media have become indispensable tools for families. We rely on cell phones, mp3 players, PDAs, and even GPS devices to help us manage our lives, and the Internet is usually the first place we look for information.

While the digital world has made our lives better, it can be argued that our tendency to embrace technology as the cure-all for our busy lives only leads us to take on more responsibilities that we don’t have time for.

It also appears that this reliance on technology has begun to wear away at some of the basic skills most of us take for granted, even as it helps us develop new ones. In most cases, this is not a cause for much concern. Who knows how to churn butter or darn a sock these days, anyway? In other cases, we may want to take note, because there are a few basic skills that I don’t think we should give up too easily.

A recent study by Nickelodeon called “The Digital Family” pulled from a number of sources to provide insight into the attitudes of kids and their parents toward technology. While most of the findings are innocuous, others are a little bit scary.

In the innocuous column: 26% of parents and 25% of kids said it’s not necessary to be able to use a printed dictionary, and similar numbers said it’s not necessary to read the newspaper. Those tools haven’t disappeared. They’ve just moved online, and families are discarding print to join them.

Also innocuous: 36% of parents and 31% of kids no longer feel the need to have a land line, and 21% of parents and 31% of kids think there is no need to listen to the radio anymore. Again, they’re just going digital. Nothing to see here, folks.

In the scary column: 20% of parents and 21% of kids said they no longer need to be able to read a map. Maps have gone online, but they’re still maps.

Getting scarier: 27% of parents and 21% of kids no longer feel they need to be good spellers. I’m assuming that this is because computers, email programs and even web browsers provide a spell-check function, and we can’t really blame the kids here. But more than one in four parents doesn’t think a child needs to learn how to spell? We do intend to continue using written language to communicate, don’t we?

Scarier yet: because of cell phones, 16% of parents and 25% of kids no longer see a need to plan ahead. If this doesn’t bother you, think about the last time you forgot to plan ahead and recharge your cell phone battery.

Can you hear me now?

(Now excuse me while I meticulously comb this article for spelling errors before submitting it to the editors. Oh, what the heck. I’ll just spell-check it.)

About Eric Friesen