The Day I Met a Futurist – Day #4 SXSW Highlights
22nd March 2016

By Emma Perkins, ECD MullenLowe Open

Parenting without Pixels: The tech-enabled future #parent tech

I didn’t know being ‘a futurist’ was an actual thing, but on this panel alongside a toy company consumer insights guy, a systems architect and an electro engineer – was David Rose, a Futurist and author of Enchanted Objects. David shared a view on parenting that I think will change my household forever.

This talk was about how technology is impacting and will impact kids in the future. Being married to a video games producer, we live in a house full of tech built for play: screens, consoles, dev kits and VR headsets and as parents of two young boys we worry about giving them access to technology.

Any parent today is in awe of the young child that instinctively knows how to interact with screens. In fact the panel felt that this emergence of tech literacy would see the action of fingers spreading to expand and contract info on a screen will become a developmental stage for children, as recognised as clapping or walking.

At age 6 the desire for digital experiences takes over the desire for physical experiences, children are being sucked in by technology. This fact made the audience audibly gasp.

The panel voiced the fears of every parent in the room; children being glued to screens, hours lost to Minecraft, accessing dark parts of the internet, insularly viewing content on VR headsets, watching endless toy unboxing videos on Youtube. As parents your instinct is to hide, limit and restrict their access to technology at all costs. But with homes full of devices how do we as parents, manage and monitor this!!??

Then the futurist David, gave a completely different point of view. He urged parents to create a home of tech abundance.

A play environment that’s a makers space, more like a workshop full of the digital and physical and to see tech as tools for imagination. Technology, the panel posed, will in fact allow kids to be even more magical. A catalyst for play, storytelling and socialising over extended networks. Futurist David described his home where he takes ordinary things and tech enables them; a coffee table becomes a Google Earth table and a Skype cabinet that when opened is a portal to the kids Grandparents house. He wants to be playing with sensors, drones, balls with accelerator monitors and body worn cameras all capturing data that alongside his kids they can edit and play with. I left feeling inspired by how we as a family can live with technology at home.

I top and tailed my SXSW experience with the same theme: It is no longer just about making tech cool, but using tech to make our lives, relationships and futures better.