I am always looking for ways to convince myself to leave my kids alone. It’s a challenge to follow my kids’ lead instead of leading them in education. And I have to remind myself constantly that I do not know better than they do about what would be good for them to do with their lives.

One way to remind myself of this is to pay attention to how different their generational perspective is than mine. Lately I’ve been thinking about differences in our technology perspective. Here are three things I’ve noticed that make me certain I have no idea what technology their life will demand as adults:

1. You don’t need to know how things work.
My son said he didn’t  practice arpeggios because I didn’t send him fingering for them. I said, “I emailed them to you.”

He said, “What? Don’t email me. I use Gmail.”

“Gmail is email.”

“No. Gmail. I said use Gmail.”

“Gmail is just a type of email. I emailed the arpeggios to you via Gmail.”

“Mom. Whatevs. Just go old school and text.”

“Old school? You think text came before email?”

He is gone. Disappeared into the vortex of kids who successfully distract their parents so they don’t have to practice.

But this is distracting to me. I’m fascinated by the idea that my son spends five hours a day using 3D graphics software and re-mixing audio, yet he has no interest in what’s going on in the code. Or how things work. He is always looking for a service that does all the technical stuff for you.

I can already hear myself saying to him that I learned to use email when I had to use a command line to check my messages. I didn’t have fancy 3D graphics software so I did animation with GIFs. He doesn’t care. I mean, he doesn’t care like I didn’t care when my mom showed me her dad’s bullet shells from the Korean War.

The under-the-hood know-how of Gen X is going to be a relic in the attic that we save for the kids but they throw out the week after we die. My son expects a full-service operation when it comes to the Internet – he doesn’t want to care to know how it works.

2. You don’t need to be available.
Kids are on their phones all the time, but they pick and choose what to acknowledge – just like I used to do when I screened phone calls in college.

Somewhere during my adulthood it became totally unacceptable to ignore someone’s communication. You couldn’t say you called but there’s no answer because caller ID. You couldn’t say the email never came. You could only say you lost their phone number if you got a new phone.

But I notice that kids feel fine just not responding. At first I admonished my kids for not responding to every text from an adult. And I told them they will fail in life if they don’t check their email.

But now I’m thinking there’s no way their generation will put up with being available to everyone all the time. They will just not respond. They feel no compunction to be available because they don’t know a time when people weren’t available. You don’t feel the need to be available when available is the only option.

It’s freeing. Of course. And when Gen Z is in charge there will be no more self-exploration, first-person journalism pieces about turning off electronics for a weekend.

3. Photos to entertainment rather than to document.
My sons don’t save their photos. When I see they’ve taken one I care about, I have them forward it to me. There’s a 50% chance they will grant my wish. They think saving photos is stupid.

I don’t believe this is an age thing. First because I was very careful about saving pictures when I was their age. Pictures were precious — even terrible ones, because of course, with an Instamatic you didn’t know if you had a terrible one until the pictures were developed.

But also, my sons are careful about saving some things, just not pictures. They have saved Minecraft guns, favorite Pokemon toys, and the tie-dyed shirts they get each year at their favorite music camp. But even though they send pictures all day long — for example, photo of empty box to tell me to buy more Corn Pops – they don’t save pictures.

But I saved that one. Because when they were toddlers there were no cameras on phones. I see parents of babies today documenting their every moment and I feel like I need to compensate.

29 replies
  1. Sarah M
    Sarah M says:

    “But now I’m thinking there’s no way their generation will put up with being available to everyone all the time. They will just not respond. They feel no compunction to be available because they don’t know a time when people weren’t available. You don’t feel the need to be available when available is the only option.”

    Fascinating observation….

    • Miodrag
      Miodrag says:

      I can remember when I was a child cell phones just started to get small enough that you can carry them with you all the time. As a kid you didn’t have access to a cell phone. If you made a appointment you had to be there. No chance to cancel or change anything.

      Young people now a days will never understand how it used to be. To be honest: I can barely remember by myself…

  2. jessica
    jessica says:

    The communication bit is about personal effiency. You can only take in so much information, and so little of it matters.

    Also, if your son was INTP vs ESFP, he’d care a lot more about the technical side. But yes, time changes how everything gets done.

  3. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    I’m Gen X and all I heard in my teens/20s was how my generation doesn’t know how anything works. They meant *mechanically.* I remember my dad under the hood of our ’66 Ford, adjusting the timing twice a year, changing his spark plugs every 20,000 miles, and so on. He had a basic understanding of how the engine and drivetrain worked and could make routine repairs and adjustments. This was pretty common knowledge in the world in which I grew up in the 1970s.

    I’ve never had any interest in this stuff, even though I’ve always loved cars. Of course, today cars are so much more complicated, with everything being microprocessor controlled. My ’06 Ford needs spark plugs every 100,000 miles and no longer has timing to set. I don’t have to know very much about how it works to drive it.

    • Bos
      Bos says:

      The joke is kind of on your dad, because it’s practically illegal to repair your own car now. I had to change out the battery on my wife’s car one very cold winter when she was abroad, and I still had to go to the dealer to get the codes reset so everything would work right.

      Not only do you not need to know much about how your car works, you probably aren’t even allowed to know much. Repairing it yourself could count as intellectual property theft. We had to pass legislation in our state, in 2013, just to make it legal for a non-dealer to own information about what the error codes from a car’s computer module mean.

      I wonder if some of the disinterest the current generation allegedly feels towards how things work is caused by the various prohibitions on knowing how things work. Dig too deep into just about anything these days and you’re likely to violate a warranty or copyright restrictions.

      • jayson
        jayson says:

        Warranties, ToS, copyright infringement, etc. are also things to be ignored. It is not remotely possible to keep current so it’s useless to pay attention to what the rules are.

  4. Brad
    Brad says:

    It’s not generational. You learn how something works under the hood only if there’s some benefit in doing so. And if it’s even possible to comprehend. Otherwise it’s just a tool.

  5. Daniel Baskin
    Daniel Baskin says:

    Tell your son only chumps need fingerings provided for them. The sooner you experiment with your own fingerings and ask critical questions about why some work better than others the sooner you can master new complex music very quickly and easily.

  6. Cheryl
    Cheryl says:

    Wow. Parental expectations are pretty low here. I seriously think all this “generational” talk is just a way to deny the fact that manners, respect and expectations of behavior are out the door. That parents (not all, but certainly some – and it seems to be trending towards this type of belief more and more….) are mostly clueless of how to actually raise a child. There is so much noise about how to do things “right” coming in, that it makes it impossible to have the grounding to actually feel confident in parenting. This is where community and the support of that community is so vital. This is where the isolation or self-induced isolation issue comes up and bottom line – it is not healthy for anyone. Not for extended periods of time.

    Your children – are YOURS. A parent should expect at the minimum – respect for rules, honesty and basic consideration for another’s feelings. I.e., Penelope talking to her sons and asking for information or sending it to them and them totally ignoring her, and worse yet, them blowing her off with attitude.

    I get it. I have grown children (34 & 28) and also two younger (13 & 11). I have had the luxury also of having such a span that I see trends change and also my expectations and “rules” have changed too. I’m very child centered, but also very firm in my choices for them. Definitely NOT perfect and always trying to scale up my parenting/communication skills with them. Sometimes I yell….like today because they seemed to have lost their ability to think and use common sense. I also love, give and try to inspire. But one thing I don’t do is compromise on respect towards others and an attitude of entitlement that they don’t have to pay attention or respond accordingly.

    One good thing about homeschooling has been the ability to show my children that often times technology, activities and peer inclusion is a privilege. That if behaviors aren’t exhibited that move towards (again) respect, compassion and a willingness to get-along then all things come to a screeching halt until said behaviors are engaged once more. Bottom line: I’m the parent, I’m the one in charge and I’m the one using my OWN time/resources investing in their growth/experiences and therefore my ROI had better be worth it. Just say’n. Believe me, the message doesn’t usually take too long to sink in until better attitudes and understanding surface.

    I wish parents would seriously get a back bone and not be afraid to stand up to the cultural “norm” of the teenager or even now, the entitled child that we have so innocently created. The reason for tee agers is because of very low expectation of them in the first place (do some research on that – especially John Holt – very good) and instead of them actually using all that energy and curiosity, we direct them into the world of technology and they become illiterate in basic human skills – we stunt them….and it is an oxymoron because we spend SO much time trying to do everything perfect to PREVENT this from happening to them in the first place. Hey!! Here is an idea!!! Give them the responsibility of all the food shop/meal prep for a month. Give them all the laundry to sort/wash/dry/fold and put away – on a DAILY basis. Problems with screen time?? Pull the plug on the internet for a few days or until all things are done and THEN have a set time for whatever is ok with you in regards to time spent in front of a screen. However, since sleep is such a prized commodity for “teens”….turn off the wi-fi or have technology turned over at 9pm so they can actually stick with their circadian rhythm that will allow for all those hormones to do what they do best to keep the brain and body growing.

    I’m on a rant – and not at anyone personally…..please know this. I am so tired of hearing parent complain and explain and be ok with less-than-stellar attitudes and actions from their kids and be GOOD with it…..but not really. Not really because it is stressing them and it is causing a real rift in relationship with these children that so desperately NEED their parents guidance and “safe place to land” when they come in from the world each day.

    • Bert
      Bert says:

      I disagree regarding this issue of communication. This idea that because a certain avenue of communication potentially exists people are required to respond to it is a subservient mindset from the generation that was dominated by authority. I have experienced the same attitude with solicitors at my door who believe that their act of knocking on my door entitles them to my time and attention, to the point that I will look out and see who is there and just not answer the door. To require that people be constantly checking their phone, text, multiple emails, mail, and any other form of communication that they may have used at one point is to live under complete control to others. Growing up my parents did not have an answering machine and would disconnect the phone during dinner. The person seeking to contact them had the obligation to keep trying until my family decided to accept contact. That notion has changed from one generation to the next.

  7. Cáit
    Cáit says:

    I have a friend with teens who hates this exact advice because it makes her feel twice victimized- her kids are mean to her and everyone blames her for ‘making’ them like that. Being a mother is really hard.

    • Cheryl
      Cheryl says:

      You are totally right – being a mother – a parent – IS the hardest work a person will ever do. Everything else is cake. :) Your friend….that mama needs some other mama’s to support her. I understand how she feels. “Torn” is how I would describe it at times because you are so totally going against what “everyone else is doing”….or so it seems. Truthfully, I think a lot of parents ARE looking at others for wisdom and encouragement, but the problem is that none of us are confident enough in our gut instincts as to what these children really actually NEED. We aren’t taught to “trust our guts”. Rather, we are taught to question everything and have fear as our driving force towards what we deem as “necessary” and “should be doing”. I see it a lot and I also catch myself playing the same game at times.

      I think it is very sad that your friends children are mean to their mother. Again – absolute zero respect for her and her position. But is it really that or is the mom struggling to “do” all the things she is “supposed” to be doing as a “good” parent (activities, driving them around, buying them the newest technology because they HAVE to have it??)….is she so burnt out that she can’t think straight and so overwhelmed that she has to tune them out just to take a breath? Is she working so hard at her career or something else that distracts her from motherhood? Women especially are so pulled in different directions that it is absolutely insane. Just today for myself, I was doing everything else for everyone else and felt like I couldn’t even take a breath without someone wanting something from me or having some sort of question or comment. No matter where you fall on the parenting spectrum, you ARE 24/7 for these kids and when the rhythm of your world is chaotic, then that rolls downhill on to them….i.e., EVERYONE suffers.

      The SANE trick to all of this: STOP. Stop everything and ask yourself what it is that you are actually doing – what these kids are doing and are you willing, at the expense of relationship and your own emotional/physical well-being, to keep up the pace? Can you keep it up and be ok? What is your health and the LONG-TERM wellbeing of your children worth to you?

      How many women (especially women) can take a nice long soaking bath at nighttime? How many of us can go to bed by 10 and sleep well through the night and wake up rested? How many of us can get up in the mornings with some sense of organization and a feeling of calm towards the day? How many of us can go and sit in the sun or do some stretching first thing in the morning to get the day started right? Are you laughing at this? Are you scoffing?? If so, then perhaps you need to take a moment and realize that this type of thing should be the NORMAL in a persons life. If you exemplify the importance of your own self-care, believe me, your children will pick up on it and follow suit. Don’t believe me? Try it. They may at first be upset because you are taking time for yourself to be your best to them, but they will soon learn that you respect yourself enough to set boundaries and that it MATTERS to you. YOU are important to YOURSELF also. You respect yourself and you are making yourself a priority too. These types of subtle lessons move mountains people. It is real life happening right in front of them and they are listening and watching.

      Encourage your friend to really think about these things. Simple things that she can implement for herself and start to set those boundaries for her health and emotional well-being. Kids don’t like it? Too bad. Shut down the internet and give them the choice of making breakfast for everyone and cleaning up. Laundry piled up? Put a load in when they first get up. Hey, they aren’t going down to the river to scrub dirty clothes. Point out that technology also runs over to the more practical side of life too and that a washer/dryer is a pretty cool thing compared to the river and a clothes line (think clothesline on a very cold day or when it’s raining and you need clean underwear….makes you thankful for the dryer.)

      I’m writing too much again… I’m just very pro-parent and passionate about supporting parents (women especially) in the toughest job on the planet. Life is a beautiful thing and our days should be slow enough to actually enjoy the ordinary of life. I get that lots of days are a drag – mine today was matter-of-fact, but being able to write this and hopefully inspire and support someone else makes me feel connected and useful. It tops off my day and helps to remind me of my own advice/suggestions….. :)

  8. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Is he gaslighting you with the whole Gmail thing? Gmail is email, isn’t it? Does he mean Google Hangout? Or Google Docs? Or one of the other various Gmail apps??!! I’m confused!!!

    • Bos
      Bos says:

      I do wonder about the methodology of looking at the things one’s pre-teen kids refuse to do and proclaiming that’s the way of the future.

      IN the future nobody will make their beds! In the future, clean laundry will only occur on a sporadic basis! In the future, everybody’s feet will grow two shoe sizes every year!

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        Well, there was a time where automatic dishwashers didn’t exist! I wonder what the argument was against them…”Housewives will get lazy!” But seriously, taking the argument to the extreme Wall-E comes to mind.

        With technology trends it’s so hard to guess based on pre-teen behavior. Will we all have a chip in our head that lets us read our emails and texts instantly and respond?

        The part where a kid doesn’t want to figure out the code or go deeper doesn’t mean other kids do not. I know a few kids who instead of copying code create their own so they can understand it. I also know a few kids who didn’t just want my engineer husband’s easy algorithm answer to solve a number theory problem, they instead wanted to talk about what it all meant and go deeper.

        Then there are kids who are totally fine copying code, drag and drop, using algorithms or whatever. Every kid is different, and if they are passionate about something they will want to go deeper to understand the tool they are using. Most kids, mine included, just want to create with the tool.

  9. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    #2 is a good one, – I had to get used to that with my much younger cousin who never responded to my social media messages citing ‘way too many notifications to see your one’. I call it the CEO-mentality, i.e. I won’t respond unless it’s really important to me.

    Additionally another trend is voice recognition technology. I see my kids growing up with this as defacto. I was remarking how different my childhood is to my kids: my two can automatically command Alexa to play any song they like or tell them the weather but don’t know how to eat grapes with seeds…

  10. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    “Somewhere during my adulthood it became totally unacceptable to ignore someone’s communication.”

    How this translates to me, as a service-business owner, is that I am constantly hiring people who do not respond to texts when they don’t feel like it. Text is the form of communication I use 90% of the time to confirm scheduling with both customers and my workers. Everybody knows this. My customers are gold, they respond right away (they want their service). The workers, not so much.

    They don’t give me any warning when they won’t be able to show up. They don’t feel it necessary to tell me they are on bedrest(for example) and need a week off, until I contact THEM the day before a busy week confirming their schedule (which they already knew about and I confirmed with them the week before. I confirm with them once with plenty of notice, and again the day before they are needed, because I know how unreliable a lot of them are).

    I text for confirmation of something, and get a response 8 hours later, maybe, when I KNOW they saw the text when it came in. The lack of communication drives me out of my mind.

    “He is always looking for a service that does all the technical stuff for you.”

    Everybody wants a service that does everything for you, but nobody wants to actually do these things. I see this as widening the gap between classes of people, don’t you? I mean, if you have huge groups of people with no interest in how things work, only wanting to be consumers, they are like children needing to be taken care of and expecting things to appear and happen on their own.

    The ones who want to know how things work and make things happen will be the ones who end up with the power. Right? Or will they just be the lowly service providers producing what others blindly consume? I suppose it depends on the industry. But, somebody needs to know how things work, or the grown up children who just expect things to appear won’t have anybody contributing to their upkeep, i.e. general infrastructure of our society, social security, government programs, entitlements, free services, etc…..Somebody needs to be producing enough to create the wealth to contribute to these programs or nobody will have anything.

  11. Lauren Teller
    Lauren Teller says:

    Did they pack themselves for their trip? Did they have what they needed with no costs at the destination? Teach them to be self sufficient packers. They will travel.
    Kids aren’t sentimental about the passage of time. When they get older, they love to look at your pictures, briefly, and hear your crazy stories of how they were. Which they will deny.
    I texted my 25 year old that I was going to stop sending him texts because he never texts back. He texted back – don’t stop, I love your texts.

  12. Alison
    Alison says:

    #1 – I’m on the edge of Gen X/Millenials (1979 birthday), so I get this. For example, I just re-did my website. I used Squarespace. It was awesome! I didn’t have to learn how to use any code at all (unlike my other 2 website platforms I’ve used previously). When I used to work on my old websites, it would take days, weeks, to figure out how to do what I wanted it to do. And where does that knowledge get me now? I’m not designing other peoples’ websites. I just wanted to get it done as quickly as possible and get on to doing the parts of my business that will get me booked. Why should I have to figure out how to build a website when there are people out there who do it for a living and are very good at it?

  13. IGNOU Hall Ticket
    IGNOU Hall Ticket says:

    Technology will be playing great role in current education system and it will be change complete share of education in future in compare to current education system

  14. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    ” And when Gen Z is in charge … ”
    I’m so old school that I can remember when old people were respected and more in charge. I guess that’s why I won’t ever consider them to be in charge … even when I may be in an old folk’s home slobbering my oatmeal and passing gas without control or a worry. Wait. I already do that.

  15. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I came back to this blog post for the Kodak Instamatic camera link (Pinterest). I’ve always enjoyed photography (on and off) as an amateur since I was a kid. I started off with my Dad’s Argus C3 and a handheld light meter. It was anything but instant. Anyways I like old stuff that works well and like to read about it. One of those images on the above Pinterest link caught my eye and I clicked on it to bring up a 2013 article ( https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/03/29/instamatic-camera-50-years/2034585/ ) about the 50th anniversary of the Instamatic. It’s very interesting as it discussed the camera and the people associated with it at Kodak. There’s many professional technical people in the Rochester, NY area. I know this as I used to go to the Rochester hamfests (festivals for ham radio operators) when they were very big. My brother and I went there mainly for the mostly used (and old) hardware that ranged the gamut from stereos, cameras, computers, and a lot of ham radio equipment. All kinds of people there from those looking for deals on certain items to those just wanting to get together for the camaraderie and exchange information. Which brings me to now as I’m becoming knowledgeable and setting up a workflow for archiving photos and film digitally on the computer. I’m gradually acquiring equipment. I’m doing it on eBay though rather than a hamfest. As an example I picked up a very capable and in good condition Polaroid slide and film scanner for $20 on eBay that about 20 years ago went for $1500 to $2000. So I ‘m rambling a bit here but I’m wondering if the newest generation won’t think back when they’re older and wish they saved some of those photos. I think they will. As for your situation with photos you’re requesting from your sons, maybe setting up a cloud service to store photos would be a good solution. Just say – ‘Hey, I’d like to have that photo, would you do me a favor and upload it for me?’ No muss, no fuss. Instant. Done and done.

  16. Caroline
    Caroline says:

    “But now I’m thinking there’s no way their generation will put up with being available to everyone all the time.” THEIR generation? I am 48. This is me. Today’s tech is a fabulous, amazing pain in my ass. I don’t answer everything. I weigh it as I go.

  17. jen
    jen says:

    My kids are 10 and 9. I can leave them alone in the house but I am there in my room. I would never leave them home alone. Boys are so much less mature than girls and one thing I know for sure, kids are the worst sitters for kids. When I was a kid and I come from a big family my mom left my oldest brother in charge of us all we had an emergency it did go well. She never did it again and he was 16. It was ok to leave him home alone but not in the charge of so many kids. I think I would much sooner leave girls alone but I don’t have any

  18. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    “HONG KONG — It’s all over for humanity — at least in the game of Go.
    For the second game in a row, a Google computer program called AlphaGo beat the world’s best player of what many consider the world’s most sophisticated board game.”
    That’s how an online article ( https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/25/business/google-alphago-defeats-go-ke-jie-again.html ) in the NYT starts off.
    It was heartening to read – “Computer scientists say that often the best use of artificial intelligence is not to pit it against humans, but to pair it with them.
    To that end, two Go professionals, each partnered with AlphaGo, are scheduled to play against each other on Friday. Mr. Hassabis has said that top amateur Go players, with the help of AlphaGo, can generally manage to beat the software program in a match. In short, a human with a computer is still stronger than a computer.” – and I couldn’t agree more.
    I was disheartened to read – “Ke Jie has said that after the third game on Saturday, he will return to focusing on playing against humans, and is not likely to take on a computer again, arguing that the technology has become too formidable.” No way! I would continue to play AlphaGo from time to time to learn from it. And then study the input and logic of the code if possible. If I played or knew how to play Go. The ultimate computer game – hacking through a machine learning game that improves your game and facilitates learning.

  19. Ramesh
    Ramesh says:

    “yet he has no interest in what’s going on in the code. Or how things work. He is always looking for a service that does all the technical stuff for you.” Very true. As a parent, I often struggle to make my kids understand that computers need to be programmed. Over here in India we face a tough challenge helping kids cope with technology and academic pressure. It does take a toll, but at times I do feel that there is no point trying to help them by bringing up our past. This generation will be different and they will figure things out themselves.

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