and the teenager: living electronically in Tokyo
TV, portable MP3 players, DVD, Gameboys, e-mail, the Web. Those
of us working with consumer-end high tech--designing it, programming
it, or reporting on it--sometimes forget how the stock in trade
of our daily work life is actually used by the folks "out there."
Japan asked 16-year-old Maya Hall to tell us how technology weaves
a thread through the modern teenager's life, and we breathed an
editorial sigh of relief to find that some of the old standbys--like
radios and stereos--are still very much in vogue. Sadly, CJ's collection
of albums (including the then-to-die-for special edition of Bat
out of Hell) seems to have become largely irrelevant.
report raises the question, however, faced by technology end-users
of all generations. How much is time-saving, and how much is time-wasting?
Are we teaching today's teens to become too isolated by wired living,
or too dependent on gadgets (whether it's for entertainment, social
interaction, or just plain old-fashioned shamming the math teacher),
instead of fostering the growth of people skills?
a.m. WAKE UP. The first thing I
do is turn on the stereo. I begin my morning with the radio to catch
up on news and listen for the day's weather forecast. Friends of
mine say that they prefer to stick to the TV first thing in the
morning, but I presume that is only because they have one in their
room (which I don't). Then I stumble into the bathroom and turn
on a second, smaller, stereo that sits next to the sink. I sing
along to the music as I brush my teeth and take a shower. While
periodically checking the dozen or so clocks that lie scattered
around my room and bathroom (each of which is set 5 minutes fast),
I change and continue getting myself ready for the day.
a.m. LEAVE THE HOUSE. I slip my
hook-behind-the-ear earphones on, and I am out the door with more
music blasting from my Discman--most likely damaging my eardrums,
but enjoyable nonetheless. Maybe someday when my ears become noticeably
out of whack, I'll start concerning myself with the consequences
of my listening habits, but until then, I need my music! I make
use all of the options on this little piece of wizardry, including
the Electric Shock Protection feature that keeps my music running
smoothly even as I walk.
a.m. ON THE SCHOOL BUS. I have
been on the bus for a while now, swapping CDs and batteries with
my friends seated nearby. I look around and see one of my friends
finishing up his schoolwork on his own laptop computer (spoiled
if you ask me). Another is wasting money on her cellular phone again,
talking to her friend whom she will be seeing shortly anyway. Many
of the younger kids sit immersed in their own world of Gameboys.
They stop only to look over the shoulder of the kid next to them
to see how many more dragons he's slayed or dungeons she's broken
a.m. ENGLISH. Now I'm at school,
and we're working on the computers as always, as well as doing other,
non-digital, activities. We have numerous technology centers in
our school, as well as computers in almost every classroom, constantly
updated with the most state-of-the-art hardware and software. One
would imagine that most of this great equipment is merely to brag
about in the "Please-Come-To-Our-School" pamphlets, but students
do find a use for it all, in one way or another. All assignments
in this class must be typed and stapled or else they will not be
accepted--imagine that in the days of typewriters! Click, click,
click (almost done). Click, click, OOPS! Start again...
a.m. MATH CLASS. A Texas Instruments
TI-83 scientific calculator is required of all students. Most people
have downloaded (or programmed their own) games onto their calculators
to entertain themselves during boring classes. By vigorously pressing
buttons as they play, students can often fool teachers into believing
that they are hard at work on the problem at hand, when in fact
they are doing quite the opposite.
p.m. LUNCH. While some students
are actually eating, many people are once again making use of the
computer areas, taking a few moments to check their e-mail or look
up something on the Internet. An enormous number of people are scrambling
about, frantically trying to finish assignments due next class (and
assigned weeks before). They are printing out banners, graphs, and
titles for posters, finishing up essays, typing out other assignments,
and doing whatever else needs to be done.
p.m. TECHNOLOGY SKILLS CLASS. A
compulsory subject for all students, and no one can graduate without
receiving a credit for this class. Some of the topics studied include
spreadsheets, graphs, databases, word processing, presentations,
graphics, digital photography, scanning, and keyboarding.
p.m. UNSCHEDULED PERIOD/FREE TIME.
Many students use this time to hang out and relax with friends.
Some people are checking their e-mail again, or surfing the Internet
to pass time. Still others are using the computers for, surprisingly
enough, academic purposes, and are researching topics for class.
In the library, students are using newspaper and magazine article
archive programs to look up information from publications around
the world. Others are using CD-ROM Encyclopedias. For those looking
for books, the bookshelves in the library are designed to take up
as little space as possible, and to slide mechanically across the
floor at the push of a button to provide access to the desired bookshelf
without wasting space. While this doesn't give off quite the cozy
appeal of say, Grandma's house, it is an efficient use of space
and students' time.
p.m. SCHOOL'S OUT. Some people
stay to do more work on the school computers (whoever said kids
these days don't work hard enough?) or talk with teachers, while
others stay for after-school activities such as clubs, plays, or
sports (digital photos taken of players and teams are often posted
up on bulletin boards along with schedules and scores).
6:30 p.m. GOING HOME. Most of us
are heading home by now. It is time to slip my trusty earphones
back on (I'd been slipping them on and off between classes as well)
as I pack up my books and sweaty sports gear and head home.
p.m. HOME. By this time, I am most
likely sitting at the dinner table and complaining about the huge
load of work my evil teachers have given me, and about how purchasing
a new and improved computer will accelerate my working speed and
improve my grades (unlikely, I know, but worth a shot).
p.m. HOMEWORK. After a few unnecessary
phone calls, I am settled and ready to begin my work. Sitting quite
uncomfortably at my desk, I turn on some more music to improve my
concentration. I read whatever needs to be read, type (this time
on our own computer) whatever needs to be typed, and do whatever
needs to be done. Okay, so I spent a little time in between checking
my e-mail and chatting to my friends across the world who just happened
to be online at the same time. But that didn't take up too much
of my time. We have about three or four hours of homework each night,
so I usually get to bed at around 12:30 or 1:00 a.m.
1:00 a.m. SLEEP. After setting
my cellular phone in its holder to be recharged overnight, I sleep
for a few hours. While I sleep, I dream of more technological devices
just waiting to be invented that will save (as well as waste) more
of my precious time.
quite a bit of the technology used by teenagers today may not be
deemed necessary or beneficial to our lives (Gameboys, blasting
Discmans, celebrity websites, etc.), I'd argue they do provide us
with certain necessary skills for the future. Whether they be problem
solving skills gained through capturing the bad guy or learning
to look up a graph illustrating the recent fluctuations of the NYSE,
knowing which buttons to push will, in the future, prove to be an
essential part of our daily lives. I don't suppose that we teenagers
put much thought into it now, but I'm sure that someday we'll look
back and be thankful for all that our constant reliance on modern
technology has taught us.
Hall is a student at an international school in Japan. Contact her
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