why don’t our kids care about all our old stuff?

Ugh, so tiresome: 

Will my children ever have their own awkward but poignant, John Hughes-worthy moments when teenagers today can have entire relationships over text messages? Would the kids in The Breakfast Club even talk to each other if they found themselves in a Saturday morning detention today, or would they spend all their time on their phones, texting their friends and tweeting about how lame it was and never actually make eye contact with one another? Would anyone today even believe that Seinfeld and friends would spend that much time talking to each other out loud about nothing?

1. What exactly about text messages makes teenagers not awkward and romance not sweet?

2. The Breakfast Club is one of the few 80s movies that could still happen today, if the teacher in detention just took everybody’s phone away.

3. I watched Seinfeld when it was on and I can’t believe anybody ever gave a crap about it ever. Fuck Seinfeld. Why is it important that kids years from now find Seinfeld important?

On the days that I drive the middle school carpool, I purposely choose a route that takes us past a huge river. Some mornings, the water looks like glass; others, it reflects the moody clouds above with choppy waves – either way, it’s gorgeous. Every time we drive past it, I point it out to my car full of 12-year-olds: “Look at the water today. Isn’t it beautiful?” No one in the car looks up. They are all looking down at their phones, playing games with each other, texting a friend or watching a YouTube video. Sometimes, if I am lucky, I will get a mercy grunt out of one or two of them in reply.

Yes, and back in our day it was the Walkman we were always listening to while our parents nattered on about Reagan or something. Back in our day it was comic books, or rock music, or some other distraction that became a sign of our superior virtue and refinement once there was a new thing to compare it against, favorably of course.

It is so tiring to have each generation demand that the one after it validate all its cultural signifiers and operate in exactly the same way it operated in order to grant legitimacy. Kids are supposed to like things that are strange to us olds, and supposed to behave incomprehensibly. If they acted just like we did it would be fucking weird.

My children might never understand why I talk about the river on our morning drives, but I have decided to be gentle with myself and with them on this issue – to be okay not knowing exactly how to handle it. The truth is, my generation of parents are pioneers here, like it or not. We’re the last of the Mohicans. We can try as hard as we want to push back and to carve space into our children’s lives for treehouses and puzzles and Waldorf-style dolls, but in the end, our children will grow up with the whole world at their fingertips, courtesy of a touch screen, and they will have to learn how to find the balance between their cyber and real worlds. It is scary. I don’t think I even believe there is a “right way” to parent with technology.

Well, you could try not raising little assholes, for a start, as generations of parents did when the wireless first became a thing, or vaudeville, or whatever the parental freakout of the 1920s was. TV was going to ruin everybody once upon a time. Maybe it has. Maybe that’s why this piece exists.

This entire paragraph makes me want to tear off my own head and eat it. There are kids out there who don’t have enough to eat, but yeah, our greatest parenting challenge is how many Snapchats a kid sends.


3 thoughts on “why don’t our kids care about all our old stuff?

  1. Every generation thinks it invented sex and music. Every generation’s parents think their kids are insolent, snot-nosed, rebellious know nothings. That goes double for other people’s kids.

  2. I don’t know, Athenae. I’ve taught college forever, so I’ve seen students at the same age for many years. Obviously much less in-depth than parenting, but also a broader sample. I don’t doubt you’re right about the specific article, but on the broader issue of being glued to electronic media, I’m not so sure. Something’s changed. I’ve noticed it the last five years or so, and it wasn’t there before. There’s a compulsion about it that wasn’t there with Walkmans or television addicts or bookworms. Or even late-90s gaming addicts. There’s an inability to focus. Students don’t seem any more socially awkward than they and we always were, but I’m not sure what’s going to happen once they’re doing work that requires attention. Which is pretty much all work.

    I do realize that any form of “kids these days” has a history that goes back to when we lived in trees (and the damn kids were doing that no-good newfangled hopping around on the savannah). On the other hand, not all social changes are good, and it’s worth keeping a close eye on the evidence just in case some warnings are actually worth listening to. From where I sit, the evidence isn’t in yet and too few people are thinking about it.

  3. Yeah, while this article has the “get off my lawn” quality to it, I have to say that I do think that people being glued to the phone and not interacting with each other is a bad thing. However, it ain’t just the kids. Adults are doing it, too.

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