At Your Fingertips: Knowledge or Trouble?

By Courtney Plunk

April 3, 1973, was a date that would change the world, although few knew it at the time. On this fateful day, an engineer made the first-ever mobile phone call.

Four years later, the first home computer hit the stores, and ten years later, Motorola released the first commercial mobile phone.

Lisa Bollens’ family. Image from her Facebook page.

Shelley Barba, Texas Tech’s digital scholarship librarian, remembers getting her first cellphone in 2007. Since then, she has written a lot fewer letters than she used to.

But technology has also made the written word more easily and widely accessible.

“People doing research goes so much faster now,” Barba said. “They have the ability to find more information very quickly.”

Lisa Bollens, a mother of three girls, said her children use technology to complete assignments in a way she could have never imagined.

“When I did research, I went to the library, and Ms. Fuller was the librarian, and she would tell me where to look for the books I needed,” Bollens recalled. “There was always a line to get to Ms. Fuller. … Now my kids come home from school and say, ‘Mom, I need to do a research paper, let’s get on the computer.’

She is glad to help with such assignments because she says she is afraid of the internet’s effect on her daughters.

“They could be googling the right thing that they are looking for, but some other crazy thing pops up,” Bollens said.

This graph shows how Google searches for “iPhone” have been on the rise since 2007, while searches for “television” has plateaued and declined. Image from

Eric Rasmussen, a Texas Tech assistant professor and author of the blog ChildrenAndMediaMan, suggests parents should have full access to children’s passwords, text messages, voice mails and social media accounts.

His other advice: “No Instagram or Snapchat, yet.”

Bollens said her children often come home talking about the latest social media apps, but she believes it is too early for her 12-year-old daughter to have them.

“They all want to have social media, but they don’t understand the dangers of social media,” Bollens said.

Rasmussen also warns about technological mishaps involving children.

For example, he writes on his blog that one of his daughters “somehow left two voicemails for a family member while she was on the phone with somebody else. I didn’t know that was technologically possible!”

Listen to more opinions about the effects of technology in the video below.


About JOUR 4350

JOUR 4350 is the multiplatform news delivery class, which is the capstone class for journalism majors within the College of Media & Communication.

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