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.