I was interested to read Stuart Dredge’s discussion of whether tablet computers are harming children’s ability to read (Are tablet computers harming our children’s ability to read?, 24 August). It’s an important subject, but it might be useful to note that there has never been a new technology of communications that wasn’t presumed to have negative effects, particularly on the young. Sometimes, however, one is reminded that there are perhaps other ways of thinking about how technology affects children. I’ve been doing a lot of background research for an essay examining the possible social, cultural and, crucially, neurological effects of smart technology on children – it’s all still a bit vague (worth remembering that these smart technologies are new, the iPad only coming on to the market in 2010, so research is playing catch-up). Then a new perspective emerged from a surprising source. I was talking to a childcare worker, who said that she had been doing an exercise with a young girl using a booklet called You’re One of a Kind, in which the child responds to questions such as “your favourite colour/animal?” or “how tall/old are you?”. One question was: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The child replied: “I want to be a phone so that my parents will pay more attention to me.” A four-year-old’s brutal judgment on adult absorption with technology.
Professor Michael Tracey
University of Colorado at Boulder
• The threat of the new toilet app described in Jeff Sparrow’s article (Wipe right: toilet app Looie forces movement of ‘sharing economy’ towards privatisation, 21 August) is not only of privatisation but also of the imposition of a “Silicon Valley transaction tax” on the everyday activities of people around the world. Last year, on booking an apartment in Spain through Airbnb, I realised I and the apartment owners were paying a hefty percentage to Airbnb, PayPal and MasterCard, not to mention Microsoft and Google. Also, why should buying a used mobile phone on eBay in the UK fund hot tubs in California? Where are the European alternatives to Airbnb, Visa, eBay and Google? Time for a bit of real competition.
St Andrews, Fife