I hate paper, really. From when I was in Secondary School I always wondered why we cannot have our books on floppy disks and load them up on a computer.

In the late 80s, the whole world switched from paper to plastic to reduce deforestation. Plastic cups and bags are more economical and easier to make, lighter to transport, and stronger for the same material density. Suddenly the whole world now wants to switch back to paper products.

It is 20 years since the height of the “dotcom boom”. Governments, banks, insurance, telcos and other stupid corporate institutions are still sending me tonnes and tonnes of paper every day which I have to take additional effort to scan, shred and then sort into recycling bins. Some are still sending me paper letters even after I have opted for electronic distribution.

By now electronic distribution should be the default if an institution has a customer’s email address on file. Printed paper should become a chargeable option.

Too much emphasis has been placed on the relative security of sending information over digital medium. What is stopping somebody else from opening my letter, or the postman from delivering to the wrong mailbox? How is a signature scribbled on a paper cheque more secure than an electronic transfer authorised after logging in with a username, password and 2FA OTP?

If you wouldn’t use a cheap lock that has the same key as a thousand other households in your neighbourhood, then you wouldn’t make a password “123456”. If you wouldn’t take a candy from a stranger, then you wouldn’t open that attachment from Amy Yip. Weeding out bad stuff on the Internet seem a bit harder, but in reality it is not much different from everything else in the physical world – especially if made an important part of early childhood education.

The case for children

There has been advocacy that children should have little or even no exposure to electronic devices. They need to see, feel and touch paper. They need to learn penmanship.

No doubt it is good to have children explore the world from different angles, but let’s not kid ourselves (pun intended): our children will live in a future fully surrounded by electronic devices. Not too long ago our parents were once surrounded by print advertisements, smog generating vehicles, hand-drawn cartoons, and washed their clothes by hand. Where have those gone? Do we still carve words on stone?

Penmanship and writing on paper is already becoming a thing of the past. Just like mechanical watchmaking and oil painting, it will become a form of art.

Various articles seem to suggest that early exposure to electronic devices can cause ADHD, ADD or even depression. Maybe it does, but is it really the electronic device itself or the games, TikTok and social media? When I was young, I was told not to watch TV all day long. Our parents were probably told not to play marbles all day long. Is YouTube any different?

Like it or not, all our children will likely grow up interacting with computers – if not as part of their education, then certainly as a large part of their work. Today’s artists are already using digital cameras, Adobe Photoshop, computerised music notation software, GarageBand, and a myriad of other digital tools to supplement their art. Doctors, nurses, and hospitals all depend on computers to be efficient. With the exception of maybe a Shaolin Monk – if that is what you desire.

Children should gain familiarity with reading, typing, controlling, interacting and understanding how a computer device function. That is not to discount the need to restrict access to TikTok and YouTube, just like how we weren’t supposed to mix with certain groups of friends or have access to certain books or TV channels. The need for parental control hasn’t changed.

Are we really saving the Earth?

If the goal is really to save the Earth, removing plastic straws and switching to paper cups aren’t the solution. Corporations should make it a mission to aggressively reduce paper use. Governments should help drive investments into improving bioplastics.

Of course we still need paper, but we shouldn’t deliberately avoid technology. Writing an essay on a piece of paper should hopefully be a thing of a past, but children should still do art, and I still need to wipe my ass.

Wait, there’s bidet sprays.

I hate paper.