When I first heard that Jan. 6 is National Technology Day, my first reaction was “Isn’t every day technology day?” We wake up, check out our smartphone for the news of the day in both our personal life and in the world and throughout the day ask Google whenever we have a question about anything that comes up in conversation or in our thoughts.
In our kitchen we have an Amazon Echo, which my husband and I won as part of the winning team at a trivia contest a couple of years ago. I greet Alexa in the morning and she shares a piece of trivia for the day and gives me a briefing on the day’s news and weather. She’s kind of a part of the family now, the wise one when the kids are doing their homework. “Alexa, what’s the capital of Maine?” “Alexa, what’s 2,035 x 54?” (We discourage Alexa’s homework help, but sometimes it happens.) “She” even plays “20 Questions” with the kids.
National Technology Day was founded in 2016 by a company called StoAmigo, founded by a group of technology professionals based in Las Vegas. They made a cool website that features technology innovations through the decades: nationaltechnologyday.com.
It’s amazing how much technology has changed in our lifetime. I remember how life-changing it was when my mom bought our first microwave back in the 1970s, how entertaining it was to leave funny outgoing messages on our new answering machine and how exciting it was to be able to record television shows on our VCR. I received a new stereo for my bat mitzvah and was thrilled that I could record a song on the radio directly on the cassette in my cassette player instead of having to hold up a little microphone to the radio, with a “RECORDING: DO NOT DISTURB!!” note taped on my bedroom door.
Today my kids have no concept of listening to the radio all day in hopes of hearing a favorite song – they go directly to YouTube and hear it whenever they want. Same with TV shows and movies – they are available 24/7, no need to go to the video store and hope the video you want is there and that you can return it in time the next day. Or (and I’m going to sound really old here) have to get up from the couch to change the channel between the five channels available on television. (We didn’t have cable growing up.)
The idea of having a phone with you at all times that allows you to speak to people live via video, watch TV shows and learn about the news as it’s happening would have been unfathomable. It’s like we live in the age of the Jetsons. (But where’s that automatic meal-making machine?)
Parenting in the digital age
Are we better as a society because of technology? In some ways, yes, and in other ways, no. But there is a good and bad side to almost everything so we should embrace the good and try not to let the bad consume us.
Social media, smartphones and all that’s available in Cyberspace with a click of button has added another dimension to parenting that our parents never had to worry about. At what age is it appropriate for our kids to have their own social media accounts or their own phone? Sure, our parents had to worry whether we were watching too much television and the effect that it would have on our brains, but now those concerns are multiplied tenfold with all the new technology. (For a good resource about Internet safety for children and teens, check out this website: Parenting in the Digital Age).
A weekly break from technology
When I asked my kids how they want to celebrate National Technology Day, their reply was that they should play video games all day. However, this year, Technology Day falls on a very anti-technology day – the Jewish Sabbath, or Shabbat. On Shabbat, one takes a break from their everyday life – work, checking cellphones every five minutes, watching TV, etc. It’s a little haven of time isolated from all the craziness in the world, time to spend with family and friends, eat delicious food and focus on spiritual matters and each other.
Shabbat starts on Friday night and continues through Saturday night and although our family doesn’t typically observe the whole day – for now we observe primarily on Friday night – it’s still ironic that Technology Day falls on a Saturday during the first week of our Every Day is a Holiday project. I’ll schedule this post automatically so I don’t need to go online to post it Saturday.
After all, Shabbat has been observed for thousands of years so it doesn’t seem right to let it be overshadowed by a holiday that started last year. Among all this new technology, there’s still a need for #tradition.