When I was a kid, I remember watching the Jetsons navigate their space-age world, and I would marvel at their futuristic (and highly improbable) technology. The family would zip around in flying vehicles, push buttons to complete simple tasks like raise the door and prepare their food, lift their feet when the robot maid was vacuuming, and even talk with their friends and family on their video telephone screen. My eyes were glued to the television, wondering what it might be like to have such amazing technology. Not once, while I was watching these cartoons, did I expect my own children would be holding video chats in my house.
Fast forward many years to Friday evening at my house.
Two of my teenagers are sprawled on the living room floor, the iPad propped up between them. (Ironically, my third teen is off the grid, camping in the woods….) They are watching funny videos, laughing, and chatting. They are telling jokes, and sharing favorite Internet sites. And they are discussing an economics assignment that is due by midnight. I can hear them talking about resources, analysis, and the performance of various companies.
Even though there are only two teens in my house, there is a friend with them. She is on the iPad via FaceTime. Early in their conversation, I had a brief chat with her about some treats I made that she particularly liked. Yes, the video chat technology that was thought to be science fiction back in my childhood is the reality of the world in which we live today.
These days, I never know who will appear in my living room. Friends and their pets are the usual visitors. My son’s teacher, teaching assistant, and classmates are also frequent visitors, now that he is a member of an online classroom. I always try to stay out of the room when the calls or classes are happening, as I am not a fan of video chatting; only every now and then will I take part in one of these conversations.
Despite my own reluctance to engage, FaceTime and video conferencing are wonderful tools, useful for many things. My children can talk to friends, hold study sessions, flirt with the objects of their affection, and spend lazy summer days with their step-sister, who resides hundreds of miles away. These tools are changing the face of education, employment, and many other areas. No longer do students need to be physically present to take part in a class. They can attend lectures from remote locations; they can hold virtual classes through chat rooms; and their classmates can hail from nearly anywhere in the world. I’ve had job interviews and held parent-teacher conferences via Skype. Video conferencing technology brings people together in ways never before possible.
Yes, in our world, my children have amazing technology at their fingertips, and it will continue to develop and change. It makes me wonder what might be next. While I don’t know what is coming, I am looking forward to the day I have my own robot maid!