Saturday 21 October 2017

Time to panic? Or maybe kids are just better-adjusted

Stock photo
Stock photo
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

In the 1980s, TV was to turn our kids into couch potatoes.

In the 1990s, video games would make them into violent sociopaths.

In the 2000s, the internet would traumatise children and put their physical safety at risk every minute of every day.

Remember all that?

Well, today it's smartphones, which we now suspect of transmogrifying our children into walking zombies, obliterating their chances of literacy and good manners in the process.

Sure, our kids are achieving record Leaving Cert results, college degrees and unheard of productivity in the workplace. But have you seen the way they rudely have their phones in front of them when they're in company?

And so what if they're twice as empathetic as previous generations? What good is that to us if they never lift their head out of from Snapchat?

Those damn phones. They've changed everything.

Teenagers now mumble monosyllabically at parents. They also seem to prefer to 'chat' endlessly with a best friend online instead of participating fully in the moment with us in the car or the living room.

It's weird and unnatural and unprecedented.

And as for what they're reading on those phone internet apps, God help us. Mental health advice. How to cope with 'feelings'. What to do if you're confused about your sexuality.

They're training to be snowflakes as well as everything else.

By the by, did you know that phones are rewiring children's brains? Oh yes sir.. As I write, several little-known American centres are looking into it. There's not quite any proof yet, but we can't be too careful.

And yet...

Maybe the story isn't as bleak as all that.

Maybe kids simply know how to use phones in an adjusted way that befuddles adults.

That time when you walked in and saw your child and her friends sitting around with their phones out? Maybe it's just a different way of communicating and sharing.

Maybe it's not "rude" or "a worrying sign".

And maybe children aren't as far behind in appreciating 'being present' or 'in the moment' because of their handsets as we frequently make out.

After all, at concerts or public events, it's rarely the kids who stupidly hold up their phones (missing the key moment) as the band plays or the rock star goes by - it's the adults.

Maybe this is actually the best-informed generation of kids we've ever had. Not about the Budget or water charges or things that we parents and middle-aged folk obsess about. But about things they worry about such as mental health, emotional well-being, diversity.

Maybe some part of this is down to information they can only access on personal devices which they and their peers collaboratively use.

After all, why is it that kids instinctively flocked to the only major social media service - Snapchat - centred around privacy?

Come to think of it, why do their parents all prefer a social network - Facebook - where they willingly post sensitive information about their family, shopping habits, location 'check ins' and umpteen other personal items for the world to see?

Which social network activity is more potentially damaging and reckless?

Any parent knows that it's more common for their teenage child to complain about a photo going up on Facebook than the other way around. It may not just be vanity.

Face it folks - the kids may be alright.

Maybe we're simply worrying the same way we worried in the 80s (with TV), in the 90s (with video games) and in the noughties (with the internet).

Maybe old people are just doing what old people always do: complaining that the new generation are damaging themselves with 'all this nonsense'.

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