Independence is a quality that we all like to think of ourselves as possessing. It is good to be self-suffient, and empowering to be in control of our own journeys. There are also many stages throughout said journeys that upgrade our independence levels; staying out with friends after school, getting your first job, leaving home, meeting new people, and maybe climbing your own career ladder.

With some surfing of the web, I have come to realise how digital technology in fact offers a helping hand through these empowering stages of our lives.

Child Independence

Parent Peace

I am not going to pretend like lots of screen time on digital devices is healthy for children, because I do believe that it is all damaging in some notable ways (Imagination: Thriving or Diving?).

However, I remember my mother being more at peace with my nights at the local youth club, or hanging out in town with friends after school, in the knowledge that I was always just a text or call away. And even since then, smart phones now offer the added bonus of Location Sharing. Therefore, parents can now know the whereabouts of their children even when phone calls have been neglected to be answered.

I came across a post on Wired, listing the latter as the first reason to ‘get your kid a smartphone’. As well as this, highlighted secondly was the benefit of imbedded navigation: “Knowing that your child has access to instant GPS walking navigation provides tremendous peace of mind. A smartphone means never being lost.”.

Independence for Disabled Children

Care2 explained how smart technology can lessen a child’s dependence on their parent, while simultaneously maintaining their safety. Location trackers (i.e motion sensors around the house), video monitoring, and two-way intercom systems; wonderful new digital technologies we have at hand to improve the independence of other-wise dependent children.

Helpful Smart Technologies according to Care2

Mother hugging teenage son as he packs for college | Picture source: The Gateway.

Flying The Nest

A big step on the Independence learning curve is moving away from home. I can personally vouch for this, and The Guardian agrees with me. I for one am such a home-bird, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. One of the reasons I took a gap year after sixth form was due to not feeling ready for the big Uni life. And while my year out travelling brought it’s own life lessons and learning curves (more on that in a bit) The act of leaving home comforts is a big step for most – whether they’d like to admit it or not.

I conducted a survey among a sample of University students, and asked the question as to whether they felt digital technology had made it easier to move away from home. The results spoke in tech’s favour, with all of the students bar-one agreeing that this was the case.

Speaking from personal experience, I remember being comforted in the knowledge that no matter where I was in the country, I was always just a text, message, phone call, or FaceTime call away from my family and friends. When I was home sick, I would FaceTime or call home. Besides that I was in group chats with friends from home, alongside creating new ones with new people. It definitely helped lessen the feeling of alienation in a brand new place beholding new and unknown experiences; you needn’t feel alone.

Independent Living

Fending for yourself in food shopping and meal-making, money management and bill-paying, and I even found time management to be a challenge; after always having such an unwavering daily routine at home. It is all new and exciting, and a little terrifying. But technology helps to lighten the load in so many wonderful ways, for which I am personally grateful.

Juggling food

Yes, not literally. In terms of shopping for yourself and making your own meals, it can initially be a lot to wrap your brain around. For example, I know I always wanted to maintain a healthy diet (and try to avoid the dreaded ‘Freshers-fifteen[pounds]’!), but I had to consider my limited student budget.

The internet was a god send. A simple Google Search of ‘healthy meal plans on a budget’ or ‘healthy student shopping list’ , and I had my week’s food shop sorted and some recipes to follow. All within my budget. Stress averted. All without calling Mum (Well, most of the time.)

In case you are in need, Grazia offers an easy-to-follow, fully-explained guide in how to create your own healthy food shop list on a budget for one!

(If you’re a student as well as a Pinterest-lover like I am, head over to Mindscape’s Pinterest and find a ‘Student Living‘ board! There’s a Student Cooking section filled with easy, budget-friendly recipes!)

Money Management

Balancing the books and counting pennies; money is a significant stressor for everyone. Forth reported that money is the most common cause of stress, being primarily reported in women, and in the age bracket of 18-24 (the student age, very apt for this section).

Digital technology offers us ways to lessen the sharpness of this stress dagger. Banks offer you the choice of transferring money, the ability to regularly keep an eye on your balance without needing to be near a cash point, and the set up of direct debits or additional accounts, all through a mobile banking app.

We can keep an eye on what we’re spending and when, set up text alerts for when you drop below a certain balance amount, and we can transfer money between our own accounts or to other people with the click of the screen. I do not know where I would be without my mobile banking apps. I’d feel like I was blindfolded.

(If you’re like me and are a student struggling with balancing books, Mindscape’s Pinterest has also pinned all sorts of top tips for money management!)

Staying a-flight

Travelling

So I briefly mentioned how my gap year included some travelling. My inter-railing down through Europe will always remain one of the most exhilarating and enlightening two weeks of my life. I had just left sixth-form, and having barely even spent much time on busses, I set off on a train to London to start my railways adventures across the countries.

Photo credit: Mindscape Author

We had our inter-railing app on hand with every journey. Our hotels and hostels were booked before boarding our next train. You could say each stop was fairly spontaneous, and our days were going between foreign coffee in local coffee shops and lugging luggage hurriedly through endless train stations. From train departure timetables to navigating through backstreets to get to our airBnB; we needed the internet!

Photo Credit: Mindscape Author

Of course there were moments of independence that had no requirement of a phone whatsoever. Such as breaking into a roof top bar party in Milan, ordering our Sangria and Carbonara in Florence, or finding the sweetest coffee shop hiding in the depths of Dijon. And all of these moments were some of my absolute highlights.

However, without my phone I couldn’t have met up with my Uncle’s niece who happened to be a resident in Switzerland. She made our time in Switzerland unforgettable; guiding us through the winding vineyards, and taking us to the highest heights of the snowy Swiss Mountains. And yet, I couldn’t have met up with her if it weren’t for Facebook.

Daily Commuting

I can’t speak for everyone, but I feel as though my confidence in commuting has lifted massively, thanks to internet access of live bus and train times. Having such information on hand also means I can manage my time effectively, and it arouses a sense of control and assurance when you know where you need to be and when to catch the next bus home.

From contactless bus fare payments to live timetable updates, commuting from A to B has never been simpler. This means it is now easier than ever to catch a bus on your lonesome, and travel to your destination without any worry that you are going in the wrong direction, or have caught the wrong bus.

In addition to this, and relating back to easing time management, you can also estimate when you will arrive at your destination. Through the help of Apple maps or Google Maps, you can search your destination; find the bus you are travelling on; and track your journey across the map with an estimated journey time.

No more feeling as though you are handing over your control onto the bus driver. You can be in complete knowledge of timings, your whereabouts, and your journey ahead. Independence in travel.

Independence or Tech-dependence?

I do fear, however, that while technology can aid in the apron string-cutting, we may be going from one form of dependence to the other? I know I practically rely on my phone for money transfers, account balance and bus timetable checking; does this still count as independent?

I can do it all by myself, I am independent in that way. I can look after myself, cook for myself and feel confidence in handling new situations, which all also constitutes as independent. But it is possible that my confidence in some areas would be hindered without the internet safety-net. Especially in feeling in control of my money and in public transport. And my inter-railing trip would have been an entirely different experience without technology; more stressful and anxiety-arousing without a doubt.

I do believe digital technology to be a fantastically useful helping-hand when it comes to our independence, however, and there is so much more I wanted to write about on this topic. For example, the ways in which technology is transforming the elderly into being more independent is fascinating, with digital robots that can notify when an oven has been left on. And so despite potential growing-dependence on technology, we cannot deny all it has offered us.

From allowing your mum to let you stay out later with your friends after school, to commuting through London for a brand new job. It eases our worries and lifts potential anxiety; making us far more inclined to dive into this world head first. We know our internet safety-net is there to catch us if we fall, we can never be lost or without contact, and we can never be stranded or isolated. We are free to fly.