It’s true that more and more people use computers (and other gadgets) and get online today than they did last year. And next year, the same will be true. Technology – especially advanced computer technology, has infiltrated almost every aspect of our existence.
Just think about this quotation from Cory Doctorow via Coding2learn.org:
There are no airplanes, only computers that fly. There are no cars, only computers we sit in. There are no hearing aids, only computers we put in our ears.
We are literally surrounded by computers, and most of us sit in front of one every single day at our jobs or during class at school. We raise kids who start to use technology at younger ages – as young as 6 months, according to this infographic posted on Pcmag.com.
“More children aged 2-5 years with Internet access at home know how to play a computer game and use a smartphone rather than: swim, ride a bike [or] tie their shoelaces.”
The youth of today use these devices with an expertise even their parents may be jealous of. So, they should all be computer geniuses, right?
“Not so fast,” says many computer experts. The young people of today may be able to use computers, mobile gadgets and other web-enabled devices, but that doesn’t mean they can fully leverage them to complete basic functions. Or that they are prepared for the future, which is full of technology as far as the eye can see.
Using technology and understanding technology are not the same
You yourself may have been amazed, at one point or another, by the skill with which your toddler or small child could navigate a computer or mobile device. You may go to your older children to install applications and other software to your computer or devices.
These kids are tech savvy, but not necessarily computer literate.
Despite the fact that they use computers every day, only 38.1% of UCLA’s 2011 incoming freshmen said they had “above average computer skills, compared to people their age.”
They can use applications like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest. Software like Word, PowerPoint and Excel. But, says Coding2learn, “Ask them to upgrade their hard-drive or their RAM and they break out in a cold sweat. Ask them what https means and why it is important and they’ll look at you as if you’re speaking Klingon.”
Computer illiteracy among the younger generation could affect them negatively
Older computers required the user to understand how the machine worked – at least on a basic level, before (s)he could use it. “Today’s kids are brought up on user-friendly, idiot-proof devices that don’t even require the know-how to replace the batteries,” says Jesse Brown at Maclean’s.
However, a huge portion of available jobs and educational opportunities require real computer knowledge. Not just knowledge of how to use them, but how to code and produce computer technology.
During the next 10 years, there will be over 1.4 million jobs in computer science, according to the video produced by Code.org. However, only 400,000 graduates qualified for those jobs, leaving over 1 million potentially unfilled. In this age of limited employment opportunity and increased financial dependence for young people, it is catastrophic that more young people are foregoing computer literacy.
On a more personal level, the youth of today are surprisingly ignorant of Internet risks, especially when it comes to the social networks they cling to. Only one-third of parents monitor their middle schoolers’ Internet use. Few children and young adults are aware of the risks of child identity theft and the detrimental effects of cyberbullying.
What’s the solution?
To counteract this ignorance, says Readwrite.com’s Brian Proffitt, schools need to educate students on “real technology skills,” so they have more than just “the ability to post party pictures on Facebook.” Educators need to stay up-to-date on the ever changing world of technology to make sure they aren’t teaching outdated material.
And, says Proffitt, our individual attitudes toward technology need to change. Computers are not just machines built for our amusement, but powerful tools that have changed our lives and will continue to do so.
Students must “recognize the importance of technology productivity…. Only then will millennials find the tools they need to live up to their reputation as technology leaders.”
Rose Haywood is an Internet tech blogger and small business marketing/tech consultant. She hails proudly from Asheville, NC but resides for the time being right outside of Atlanta, GA. Feel free to reach out to her directly via twitter.