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Feeling their Way

Category: Andy Marken's blog Published on Monday, 19 March 2012

In Today’s Constantly Connected World, Parents Need to Keep Up










"You see us as you want to see us... In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain...” - Brian Johnson. “The Breakfast Club,” Universal Pictures (1985)

Looking back on growing up in prehistoric times – pre-DVR, dial-up internet – life was easy for a kid.

You talked to other kids, had your cliques, had the toughs and the underdogs.

Someone always made fun of someone else; and if you were new, you were automatically an “outsider.”

It passed, you lived with it, you outgrew it.


Well, it wasn’t quite as bad as Allison Reynolds said, “When you grow up, your heart dies.”

Today’s C, i, Y generations have a whole new set of opportunities, issues, problems and challenges that old folks find it difficult to understand.

It’s affecting a huge part of the world population.

According to the latest census, nearly half of the world’s population (about three billion) is under the age of 25; 1.2 billion are between 10 and 19.

The tools they have today are awesome!

Tomorrow’s Wish List - Youngsters -- 12 and under-- from around the globe was asked to tell researchers what technologies they wanted from their future computers. This young girl wanted to video kids on the other side of the world using a different kind of language. Others wanted the system to know what you were thinking and do it for you, teleport you to a systems somewhere around the globe and picture clothes/food and make them real.  

They watch a huge portion of their video online. They visit blogs and use social networking regularly. They own tablets. They own smartphones.

To them, technology is a natural part of their lives, a natural extension of themselves and their “community.”

They move easily, effortlessly between the real and virtual worlds.

Allison Reynolds observed, “You do everything everyone tells you to do and that is a problem.”

Increasingly Connected – The number of home/mobile devices young people use continues to grow. 

Between Two Worlds

Last year, Innovative Research conducted a worldwide study of kids 12 and under, asking them to submit drawings of their imagined technologies.

They wanted their technology to be more interactive, more human, better integrated with their physical lives; and they wanted it to empower them by helping them gather new knowledge, abilities.

They’re already heavy internet users.

According to a couple of recent Pew Research Center studies:
- 93 percent of the teens use the internet
- 52 percent of parents say their kids access social networks on the family computer
- 42 percent use their own computers
- 25 percent use their cellphones
- 8 percent use a tablet or handheld device
- 8 percent use a friends’ computer
- 5 percent use school computer

Whether its parents wanting to provide more for their kids, peer pressure or the need to be connected, there’s a major increase in kids having their ownmobile device – usually a smartphone; but if they’re really cool, it’s also a tablet.


Call Home The youngest members of the family initially get a featurephone so they can reach their parents and other members of the family. The parents can, in turn, reach their children. Children are increasingly getting smartphones sooner for all the “extra” features, capabilities.

Kids like to mimic adults and you’ve probably heard of five-year-olds (and younger) who have picked up a phone, dialed someone in the family and put them on speakerphone when the parent usually struggled to do the same thing.

According to a Nielsen study, kids start borrowing mobile phones at eight years of age and the average age when they get their own phone is 9.7 years,down from10.1 the year before.

More Connected In addition to being online and connected at an earlier age, studies show that the use of devices for communications increases. But face-to-face and personal calls still rank as the leading form of staying connected.

Parents get the child the phone as a way to stay in touch, keep them safe.

But of course kids use them for more things…a lot more things. Not the least of which is the one area parents want to monitor…social networks.


Social Networking – Mobile internet users – young and old – use technology in a very similar pattern in the major usage categories; however, the younger crowd uses online social networking, music, games, and video content more than their older peers. 

Struggling to Keep Pace

No matter how geekie a parent is, their kids are usually light years ahead of them in feeling natural using their technology.

As Andrew said, “We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all.”

Today, there are private chat messages, groups, closed forums, personal SMS text and other forms of communications that are almost impossible to locate and track. As a result, many parents are clueless about what their kids are doing, what’s going on in their lives.

The key difference between growing up “in the old days” and today is that conversations on the way to school, when you were horsing around or in the classroom are a whole lot different than having it posted/laid out there for the world to see…literally forever.

According to Pew Research, digital natives (C, i, Y generations) are not only willing to share information (good and bad) and that will continue as they grow older in order to stay connected and take advantage of social, economic, political opportunities.

Outgrow Sharing The question many social scientists are closely examining is whether or not younger users who readily disclose and share personal information will change their sharing patterns as they get older. The majority believe the younger generation will continue to share openly, while a minority believes they will outgrow the socializing activities and move on to more adult pursuits.  

There were mixed conclusions in the study with the majority (dark column) saying that by 2020, digital natives will continue to be ambient broadcasters who disclose personal information to stay connected.

The light blue members of the study projected that by 2020, they will have outgrown much of their social networks, multiplayer online games and other time-consuming/transparency-engendering online tools.

The third column? Didn’t have a clue.

There are new definitions of “private” and “public” information; but the overriding issue is that once the information is there – good or bad – it’s there almost forever.

Hiding Places

There are tens, if not hundreds, of places where the information is stored, i.e., (blogs, social postings, YouTube videos and photos). Even if the kids of today change their approach to what they share, yesterday’s posted comments, opinions and images are pretty hard to change or erase.

Your parents had a different outlook on life and sharing than their parents; and you have a different set of values/views than your parents.

Your kids are certainly different from you.

Or, as Bender noted, “Do you think I'd speak for you? I don't even know your language.”

This is their trial-and-error period when kids shape who they are, who they will become.

It’s getting tougher to monitor what your kids share and how you protect them from all the problems, hurdles they have to overcome; but it doesn’t mean you can’t try.

And as a society we’re going to have to overlook the open exuberance of their youth and make sure we’re aware of the things they say and are being said about them.

You may be a “little disappointed” with them right now; but just remember, they are the only future we have.

Today, it seems even more important to monitor and care.

Information spreads across the web quickly and is seemingly there forever.

You don’t want them repeating Bender, “I don't even count. I could disappear forever and it wouldn't make any difference. I might as well not even exist at this school.”

Remember, you want to see them get payback with kids of their own!

Hits: 2048

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