Are you kidding? Being a kid today is hard? They don’t have to get up off the couch to change a channel. They never have to sit through ads if they don’t want to. They spend a lot less time waiting for public transport because they have apps that track exactly where the bus is at any given moment. They can live stream any song they want, at any time they want, without having to wait all day to hit play and record. They can create their own burger at McDonalds and skip the pickle.
Kids today don’t know hard, do they?
Well, certainly there are some aspects of daily life that have allowed today’s kids an ease of experience that we didn’t enjoy. Advances in technology have provided a loads of time and energy saving shortcuts that make life, well… easier.
Give me a choice and there are times I’d settle for my seemingly carefree childhood of the 70s and 80s. A time when days seemed longer, boredom meant adventure and ‘immediate’ meant some time that week.
Because there are lots of challenges faced by kids today. Challenges we parents have little to no experience in.
Let’s take a look at some of those in order to have a better understanding of what it means to grow up today, in this very digital world.
A world that is public
It’s open. It’s ‘see through’. It’s transparent. It’s just naked and unabashed. There really is no such thing as privacy as we knew it. We know our kids still crave it, but they are not getting it like we did. They are trying on privacy while staring at a two way mirror.
When we had a gathering, were at a party or a sleepover at friends, the conversations, what we wore, who we talked about and what we did were pretty much limited to that gathering, party or sleepover. Sure, someone may have taken some photos. But by the time they got them back from the 10-day photo developing lab, they were yesterday’s news and photos got safely tucked into an album not to see the light again until a 21st or 40th slideshow.
Now, our child’s first haircut, first day of school, first drink, first kiss, first and subsequent ‘everythings’ are there on show. I for one, am grateful mine were not.
A world that has little control
When I scroll the social network feeds of teens I know and don’t know, it becomes obvious how very little control kids have today over what gets shared about them. Sure, we repeat to them over and over that ‘what goes online, stays online’ and ‘If you don’t want the world to see it, don’t put it online’. But what about the photos that get shared without their permission? Keeping up with every time a teen is tagged would be akin to a full time data entry position and require more surveillance than NASA.
A world that is Immediate and absolute
It is fast, it is precise, it is ordered down to the second. No need to wait. No need to ponder. No need to sit idly in a supermarket aisle, or wait by a clock tower because plans to meet friends were flimsy and required a leeway of 30 minutes either side of the designated time at best. Time is filled in. The only timetable I had as a kid came with my high school subjects. Now it seems we have timetables and schedules to prioritise our time, because we don’t want to waste a second. We need to account for it and technology helps us fill every moment of every day.
A world that is distracting
Multitasking has become the catch-cry of the Millennials. But is it really possible to effectively give attention to more than one or two tasks at a time? I know when I sat down to do homework as a kid, I may have been interrupted by the odd phone call from a friend, but nothing like the constant beeping of notifications, text messages and email ‘pinging’ to constantly divert attention.
Is there an answer to this? Probably not unless we can get hold of Marty McFly’s DeLorean time machine and head back to 1985. Realistically there is no real point in pining for the ‘good old days’. Maybe instead, we should focus on seeing whether we can make some adjustments to dull any negative impacts of these technological advancements. Because we need to work with what we have. We need to accept the digital world we live in and incorporate it in ways that work for us.
I see glimmers of more mindful living: colouring in, smiling mind apps and seeking to live in the moment. Having device free moments, getting out in to nature, moving freely and slowly. Hopefully they are signs we want to revert to those times a little.
I think its worth the effort.