I’m a father a few times over, most recently to a baby girl born in late February. While Catherine isn’t old enough to tell me yet, I’m sure she’ll soon be reminding me of the same thing my teenagers say: that I’m a victim of the thoughts and structure of an earlier time.
Fair enough…while I may think we’re in a similar place in human history and viewpoint, they have an outlook and life experience that I admire more than I tell them. Here are just a few ways I’m struck by how their lives are different from my own in ways I could only hope to follow:
While I’m active on social media, I do it because I know its value. By contrast, my children are utterly immersed in a social world and live by a set of social norms that I can’t hope to feel or understand. It isn’t that they, like me, know its value. It is the only way they know to connect and communicate and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just a different paradigm.
While I’m slightly uncomfortable with the knowledge that Facebook and Google see me as a marketing tool, they know, as my daughter wrote, that their life is not for sale and don’t see the platform as a platform…just a channel for today, right now. This is why snapchat isn’t a fad…it is a choice and one that teens are making in droves. I admire their stand and wish I had the time and energy to follow suit.
Let’s face it, Facebook is well-suited to adult laziness.
Music and everything else
I take heart when I enjoy the same music they do. It’s easy for me to believe they follow my tastes, but that’s not it at all. My kids have access to any music on the planet, unlike my childhood where music was limited to what was chosen by music executives for the radio and shared by my peer group. What they enjoy is selected from everything, everywhere and that’s their expectation of life in general. Their horizons make mine look narrow, small and myopic.
How many of us copied our favorites from the radio on our cassette recorders? Our children make their own mixes and are their own recording studio, their own graphic design firm, their own movie lot. They can start from scratch or compose atop the work of others. Their brains are wired to draw in and push out anything with digital grace and creativity.
What this means is that my children have a completely different learning curve for life. Without horizons limited by geography or culture, they have a mental agility that I both envy and respect. I might have been a child of the TV dinner, but I didn’t pick the programming nor did I ever leave my culture despite Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and certainly not through The Wonderful World of Disney or Hee Haw.
“Kids these days” is a tired phrase to say that the next generation is ruined…I recommend we change that attitude and say it with an admiring tone…KIDS these days. They are remarkable.
Rather than hear it from me, listen to this TED talk by Adora Svitak, a young girl who started blogging at age 7 and had her “Ideas worth spreading” featured in April 2010. She would have been precocious a generation ago, but today is a great example of what’s coming.