Like it or not, there’s no getting around the fact that we really are electronic parents.
I’m driving my kids to school this morning and we passed a bus stop with about 8 kids standing there. Every single one of them was on their phone (or iPod). As we rolled by, I blurted, “oh my goodness, did you guys see that?” I received 3 blank stares. Not sure if it was due to the early hour or the fact that they didn’t see anything at all odd about the group at the bus stop. So, I elaborated. “Did you guys see that group of kids? Every single one of them was on their phone!!” More blank stares, this time with slightly arched eyebrows. Since I had them captive in the car, I asked them what they would do if they had to stand at a bus stop for 15 minutes and no one had a phone with them. Now the blank stares were taking on new life and morphing into looks of perplexity. First response:
15 year old: “What are you talking about, Mom? Why would we ever have to do that?”
13 year old: “Uh……what?”
11 year old: “I guess we’d have to talk to each other.”
So, I proceeded to help them understand that when I was that age (because I’m sure they were wondering) standing at the bus stop or walking to school, we didn’t have phones. We talked to each other and interacted. All day long. Then, when I came home from school, I would hop on the phone as soon as I knew my best friend should be home from her bus stop. And, we’d talk until dinner. While my brother was yelling at me to get off the phone so that he could make a call. At this point in the story, my 11 year old said, “wait, you only had one phone in the house?”
By now, I’m getting the older two chiming in to tell me that they are completely capable of talking to their friends AND checking out Twitter and Instagram all at the same time. They advised me that, “it’s just what we do,” and the looks of perplexity were changing to looks of “duh- where have you been for the last 10 years?”
So, I can’t help but think about the amount of data and information they are taking in every day. How is that shaping them, helping them or challenging them? And, I think back to how I interacted with my friends when I was their age, compared to how normal it is for them today to simultaneously be conversing with a person standing in front of them and managing social media updates and digital communication with others all in the same moment. Gives new meaning to multi-tasking.
So, the point of this post? Awareness. As the first generation of parents raising children who are born into the digital era, we have to remember that our kids aren’t getting on their phones to interact the same way we did growing us, much less how we as adults use our phones today. They didn’t join Facebook to reconnect with high school classmates they hadn’t seen in 15 years, and they aren’t primarily focused on managing electronic calendars, pinning craft ideas and recipes or trying to figure out which angle to hold the phone at to make the selfie look better (they invented selfies for pete’s sake). The sheer amount of communication that takes place for them today versus when we were kids is mind boggling. All the better reason to stay informed about the latest apps they are using, how they are using each of them, and who they are interacting with.
Stay tuned for my next post. I’m going to explore how our generation – the electronic parents- view and use some of the more popular social media sites vs how our kids of varying ages perceive and use them.