|Ask yourself how you
differentiate yourself from your parents? Like most, you probably attained your
individuality by supporting, en masse, cultural movements that your parents either hated
and/or didnt understand. Over time, classic barriers like rock n roll,
protesting the Vietnam War, and Troll dolls have helped us achieve the brooding moniker of
troubled teen("leave me alone."). But for those of us who had to rely on
"The Fonz" for tips on hipness, "being cool" was not going to be the
manner in which we would gain parental distance. Discouragingly for us, we were as
disinterested in these teen cultural events as our parents were. Then along came VCRs,
spawning the beginning of the technological split between parents and children. Ah,
finally something I know that my parents cant comprehend-programming a VCR.
Whats wrong with them? Its so simple-Hit MENU, hit PROGRAM, select the day of
the week, hit SET, select the time to begin recording, hit SET, select the time to end
recording, hit SET, select channel to record, hit SET, select recording speed, hit SET,
hit PROGRAM, make sure the tape is cued, hit TIMER. No wonder my parents dont
Now with the introduction of the Internet as a
home appliance and President Clintons youth appeal to connect all
schools("Sorry Mr. President, no more sax playing on Arsenio."), not even
Moses parting of the Red Sea can compare with this technologys great
generational divide. But unlike the VCR, the Internet is not just a newly innovated
technology, its also a cultural movement as evidenced by the successful outcropping
of Internet cafes(Definition: eating establishments where people come together not to talk
to each other, but rather to talk to people that arent even there.).
Potty training, the facts of life and basic computer skills are all
now essential ingredients for human development. In fact, the latest version of "Our
Bodies, Our Selves" includes a chapter on operating a mouse and following the tree
structure of a drop down menu. For those who have already matured(i.e. our parents),
computers and the Internet are not intuitive. Netspeak joins the ranks of Ubby Dubby
and Pig Latin as natively spoken foreign languages our parents cant decipher. Please
obey the secret clubhouse sign-No Parents Allowed. Sure, not all parents are like
this, but mine are and Ive decided to use them as a model for all(Read: journalistic
increased technology can have detrimental effects. Since we only learn through exposure,
do you think kids today realize that a television can actually be operated without a
Software is not designed for parents. Its designed for
computers users. And who do you think can install the software thats supposed to
prevent Junior from accessing playboy.com? The same person who showed dad how to program
(Read with appropriate teen sarcasm)"Yeah, sure dad, I
installed that adult blocking software."
According to our parents, pornography is the Internets
downfall. Theyre just jealous. It was never that simple for them:
"In my day, if I wanted to see dirty pictures, I had to ask
some homeless guy to buy them for me. Now, you kids you got that computer and that
Internet thing. Its so impersonal. You need that human interaction."
Theyre irritated because finding dirty magazines on your
computer is not as easy as finding them under your bed.
Classic problems parents have with Internet savvy children:
- Dont realize that theyre not supposed to pick up the
phone when someone is online.
- Cant tell the difference between their childs real
friends and his online friends.
"Now, who is this Bloodcrow you keep talking about?
Have we met him before? Honey, do we know the Bloodcrows?"
(clearly annoyed son)"No mom, you havent met him.
Hes my online friend, and Bloodcrow is his handle."
So what is this generation of young Internet users going to do when they
have to monitor their own children?
"You kids better stop clowning around...Thats it,
Im coming up there to abort download right now."
"But dad, weve been downloading ______(insert popular
violent game) for over an hour. You cant make us quit now."
"I dont care how long youve been tying up the
lines, youre disconnecting now."
To close the Internet generation gap, child psychiatrist Professor
Brent Waters suggests parents should know what their child is doing on the computer. Know
what your childs doing? Maybe you should figure out what youre
doing before you assist your child. Always good advice whether youre a computer user
or a doomed airplane passenger.
Should parents participate in the same things their kids do? I
always thought it weird when a classmates parents listened to the same music that
they did. Wouldnt it suck if your parents knew as much about the Internet as you?
"Son, I was taking a look at your log file last night. Do you
want to tell me what your venture into www.hot-and-horny.com is all about?"
For those of you over 40, dont try to close the technology
generation gap by learning computers. You didnt want your parents to like the
Beatles, so why embrace the Internet and ruin your childs opportunity to possess the
most rudimentary of all youth experiences, teen angst. How is he going to be able to
complain, "My parents just dont understand" if you install all his
software for him?
© 1997, David Spark