How Much Is “Too Much Information?”

I walked into an interesting conversation yesterday. While filling in my daughter’s paperwork for spring soccer, I listened to a couple other parents’ conversation at that same table. Said parents were conversing about Momo, the video on YouTube telling children to commit suicide. One of them asked me if I’d heard about and whether or not my children brought the topic up to me. I told them it’d been discussed and my two didn’t think anything of it.

The conversation swiftly changed to their respective opinions about kids and their use of internet. Many of the typical talking points came up. We-the adults-are aware how addicted we are to our phones; or if not, wariness of potential addicting because we know it would be habit-forming. I don’t think there is anything wrong with any of these points; in fact, I kind of agree. But one sentence stood out to me. I’ve heard it plenty of times and so have you.
“It’s too much information for children,” a mother said. I didn’t say anything out loud; but a thought popped into my mind.

Maybe all of this we see on our phones and the internet isn’t too much information; especially for our kids…

I heard something music executive-turned-marketing maven, Steve Stoute play in the back of my mind: Technology is the fastest it’s ever been and the slowest it ever will be. It’s true. You think your mobile device is hot shit? It will be slow and primitive in two years. Remember in 1999 how “realistic” NFL 2K seemed in 1999 and we thought we couldn’t tell the difference between the video game and tv?

We have been saying some semblance of “it’s too much information” for decades. But we are almost always wrong. Some might say this information is too much and we shouldn’t share so much. The truth is our brain’s capacity for information is almost infinite. The human brain is not only able to take in information, it sorts the information according to relevance and experiences; then relegates all of this as needed. Your brain is so powerful you never really forget anything.
These kids are faster, stronger, and smarter than we were. They’re able to process information in a much more intricate manner than we do. Even if they cannot explain what an algorithm is, they are so used to an algorithmic world it is wired in how they see the world; and that’s just from being born into a world where the internet exists. Have a conversation with a kid about YouTube and just let them talk. They can explain so much of how it works in great detail and it would blow your mind; even if you work in tech; they just get shit.

While my daughter was watching something on Netflix, I explained to her how the constant showing of a company logo on the screen is product placement. She didn’t know the actual term; but she said “Yeah, that’s like how the videos I watch of LOL Dolls are made by people who get paid to do this by MGA Entertainment, the company that makes LOL Dolls. So these shows are like commercials. MGA Entertainment also makes Project Mc2 (a show she watches on Netflix) and makes their dolls. So they makes these shows to sell toys?” Mind blown. I couldn’t do that at seven years old and I was a really smart kid.

We-this generation-are becoming our parents. While the subject of controversy may have changed, we’re reciting the same script that was once said about us. I’ve seen a meme float across my timeline a few times on Facebook by many Baby Boomers (the people who really use Facebook). It says something along the lines of how they were the last generation that went outside to play and came home when the street lights came on and all but saying we’re lazy introverts that prefer being in our technology worlds. This meme was made to be posted and shared on Facebook: a site that was created by someone born in 1984; someone old enough to remember a world without the internet and then did something with it.
We took the concept of what was created before us, while we were young and imaginative enough to grasp the concept, and improved on it in a way Boomers never could have. Netscape and America Online were revolutionary 20 years ago; but the world at your fingertips is mostly because of what came after them. Guess what our kids are going to do?

Experience will always win. Our children may smarter than us; but they aren’t wiser. We’ve accumulated a wealth of knowledge. No matter how much times, technology, or things in general may change; people and nuance never do. We want to monitor when and what our children absorb because we know people. Maybe the internet moved a lot slower in 1999 or you couldn’t travel but so far from your house 40 years ago, we were still told the same thing: you don’t know others’ intentions; and even then, we still had to learn that lesson the hard way.

Do I pay close attention to what my children are into? Absolutely. I try to meet them where they’re at through conversations about what they’re consuming and let them elaborate on what they see. I’ll give them context and on my own, do some research on whatever comes out of their mouth. The exchange is me being “into” whatever they like and in return, they receive information. I limit the amount of time they spend on the internet because I’ve told them there are studies that show children who spend more than a certain amount of time online are more prone to depression.

But what is the reason most of us wouldn’t trade what we know for anything in the world? Because it’s too much information.

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