Written and media by Halie Miller.
Enter the stereotype, stage left. Picture an old man: tall, short, slim, heavy, hunched over or walking tall, it doesn’t matter, so long as he’s clear in your mind. A look of disgust or bitterness mingled with disappointment is plain on his face. “When I was your age,” he says, “I had to walk 10 miles to school every day…barefoot in the snow…uphill both ways!” He shakes his head muttering, “Kids today!”
Don’t throw stones just yet; I know I’m a product of the ‘90s and the Y2K. I was spoiled by my parents, products of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Every generation after the baby boomers is given more and more as parents attempt to metaphorically give their children the world. I’m not claiming deprivation by any means, because I know just how good I had it. I was definitely spoiled (though hopefully not rotten). I was lucky enough, however, to spend most of my childhood relatively tech-free. I had doll houses, baby dolls, and a plethora of plushies, but nothing that would rush me into the adult world too quickly… something I fear is happening when I look at the “kids today.” Unlike the fictional man aforementioned, I don’t automatically assume that these “kids today” are always ungrateful. I don’t lament how hard I had it by comparison, because my life was not more difficult nor easier than theirs. Additionally, technology is great when utilized effectively, but I’m incredibly grateful that I was still a young child when the Internet hit its initial popularity boom—old enough to avoid being born into it, but young enough not to be absorbed with it like the teens of the ‘90s. “Kids today” are not so lucky. A toddler with a tablet is far less likely to play post office with 30 old Avon boxes than were my cousin and I. A 7-year-old with his eyes glued to his X-box is far less likely to play super spies outside with his water guns. When kids ask for smart phones and data plans before trucks, dolls, and pogo sticks, isn’t it time we reevaluate our priorities when it comes to raising “kids today”?
I ask because I worry. God willing, I’m going to be a parent someday; do I want my children to grow up too quickly in a society pushing them toward technology-driven maturity from birth? No, but it’ll be hard when my 14-year-old tries to leave for school in eyeliner and I have to tell her, “No, honey, not for another two years.” If current trends continue, I predict her classmates will have been wearing makeup from the time they were nine! When my son wants the latest gaming console and I think six is too young to play anything other than Humongous Entertainment’s Pajama Sam, what will he say to me? “Mom, you don’t love me because you won’t give me what my friends have”? I don’t want that either. We can’t halt progress, but we can halt our children trying to make Facebook (which I’m sure will be obsolete by the time I have children) profiles at 13. Should we, or am I just behind the times and stuck in a comparatively “old fashioned” way of thinking—an old codger at 20 when reflecting on “kids today”?
What do you think? I remember my older brother’s first computer, and though I didn’t use it incredibly often, I recall playing Putt-Putt, Freddi Fish, and even Barbie. I also remember the long, monotonous dial-up tone I’d hear while waiting hours for a Nickelodeon online game to load (which I never did get to play). When my parents bought a very large, very white Compaq desktop computer one year at Christmas, I took an interest in playing Club Penguin online (monitored by my mom), veterinary games, and the like. I had the Jump Start series of computer games from first to third grade, and ClueFinders Reading Adventures the year after. Something about this still strikes me as being different than the entertainment of “kids today.” I got my first email address in sixth grade, mostly just to mess around with my classmates on MSN chat during computer lab. I got a cell phone for my 14th birthday, the year I transferred to a larger middle school farther from home, and I got texting two years later while in high school. I didn’t spend much time online, never logging on alone until I was 16, the same year I was allowed to wear makeup (which, no matter how much I may have wanted to “fix” my flawed complexion, wasn’t something my mom would budge on). I created a Facebook profile at 17, and only then did I really get the Internet’s allure. With all that history looking back at me, am I a hypocrite to think that we are giving too much technology and too much opportunity for growing up too soon to our “kids today”?
Regardless of my specific technological emersion and the rate at which it came, Putt-Putt was never more entertaining (and far less frequent) than playing just about anything with my cousins or friends. Computer games were never “the only thing to do,” and I was 13 before giggling about boys over MSN chat became more common than playing with dolls. Will the way I was raised be obsolete by the time my children are growing up ,with even more technology and pressure to mature than “kids today”?
Leave a comment and let me know what YOU think, regardless of your age or parental status. Some of you will even look at me as one of the “kids today”—I don’t mind! It is my final opinion that a wall will eventually be hit—we will either more thoroughly moderate technology’s use and the adult behavior of our children, or we’ll end up like WALL-E’s gelatinous humans in mentality if not physicality, forgetting to look at the outside world in favor of screens and why we were ever in the first place concerned about “kids today.”