Whither the digital generation gap?

Two articles, one paper:

Hadley Freeman: Oh no! My parents have joined Facebook?

and

Polly Curtis: Internet generation leave parents behind

Polly’s article is a bit of a scaremongering piece: it says some children are spending six hours on various screen-based devices a day, but in actual fact they spend an average 1.7 hours a day online (and an average of 2.7 hours watching telly – at the same time, if my kids are anything to go by).

The upshot is that the screen-based culture we did live in – goggle-box in the corner, people hunched on sofas around it – has been replaced by another screen-based culture – google-boxes everywhere, people hunched over them. This is leading to new social challenges, ones which I’ve faced as a parent. The biggest of them, for me, is that kids have got nowhere to hide anymore. The lives they create for themselves at school now continue until bedtime; when I was a kid, I could shut the door on that stuff at the end of the day and be myself for a while. That, combined with the growth of just-in-time A&R and ludicrous talent shows, means many kids are essentially fantasists. They live out a created view of themselves which is mediated through technology and deepened by media.

I’m not saying this is all bad, and I certainly don’t buy the ludicrous assertion that kids are reading less than they did when Big Telly ruled their lives. I’m just saying that parents have to change their social behaviours. Some early rules seem to be:

  • Get a text at the dining table? If you want to read it, you have to read it out
  • Keep the web-surfing wherever possible in public places – the dining room table, the sofa, wherever
  • Take the time to learn where your kids are hanging out. Set up profiles, look around. Think of it as learning how to operate a telly remote control

As for parents appearing on Facebook: this is an interesting corrective. The fact that my son knows I’m on there, and that I can see some (but probably not all) of his activity on there, is just a reassertion of the old generation order. He lives to have fun. I live to spoil it. ‘Twas ever thus.

My mother-in-law’s on Facebook. She texts me all the time. I find it strangely comforting.

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