Real Friends, Virtual Hanging Out with FaceTime

It’s fascinating to see how the digital generation is embracing technology and integrating it into their lives in a way that sometimes is illogical to me. But to someone who has grown up with wi-fi, handheld devices, and a very different sense of privacy than my generation, children are all too willing to have their devices and network access become ubiquitous, with nary a concern about the down side or a sense of loss over what we can perhaps call more traditional access to each other.

There’s no better example than how my 12yo daughter K- and her pal use FaceTime to stay connected with each other, chatting and working on homework together exactly as if they’d been in the same room at the time. Neither of them have particularly new or capable devices – my daughter has a 4th gen iPod Touch – but the video chat technology of Apple’s FaceTime works just great.

Yesterday was a snow day, but we still had Internet so FaceTime let K- chat with her friend even while she was making us pancakes for breakfast, as you can see:

girl cooking while on apple facetime

Of course, I wonder about what the girl on the other end could see and what she thought of what was going on, but more likely than not, she was glad to be able to gossip and chat with K- even though neither was about to step outside in the miserable weather and try to meet up.

Perhaps my business background is an obstacle here, but I don’t think of video chatting someone unless it’s a “meeting”, and perhaps I’m the one missing out by not having the more visual method of engaging and conversing. Certainly it’s not uncommon for K- and her friends to be on FaceTime even as they struggle through a particularly tricky homework assignment or, of course, gossip about boys.

Caveat: I have had a number of discussions with my children about the dangers of cyberbullying and point out that it’s but a small step to go from gossip to mean gossip to bullying someone else, and that if your friends are speaking poorly of someone else, what do you think they say about you when you’re not around. But I consider that mostly just Parenting 101.

It’s not much of a step to imagine a system where you install 3-4 cameras in various spots in a room and don a VR helmet, then let software stitch you and another person as being in the same virtual room in a far more engaging manner. Then it won’t be a tiny head on a tiny screen, it’ll be your friend sitting across from you while the two of you chat and perhaps even play a computer-augmented card or board game, or share a movie viewing experience together.

And I’m not sure I’m ready for that either…

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