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More Tek Freak

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So, you’re a budding young Geek? You live at home with technophobic parents? Then don’t understand you; you don’t understand them? Looks like you’ve fallen into…

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by David Spark
Axcess, February, 1997

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 didn’t 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 can’t comprehend-programming a VCR. What’s wrong with them? It’s 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 don’t understand me.

Now with the introduction of the Internet as a home appliance and President Clinton’s 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 technology’s great generational divide. But unlike the VCR, the Internet is not just a newly innovated technology, it’s 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 aren’t 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 can’t decipher. Please obey the secret clubhouse sign-No Parents Allowed. Sure, not all parents are like this, but mine are and I’ve decided to use them as a model for all(Read: journalistic license).

My parents just don't understand meOh sure, 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 remote?

Software is not designed for parents. It’s designed for computers users. And who do you think can install the software that’s supposed to prevent Junior from accessing playboy.com? The same person who showed dad how to program the VCR-Junior.

(Read with appropriate teen sarcasm)"Yeah, sure dad, I installed that adult blocking software."

According to our parents, pornography is the Internet’s downfall. They’re 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. It’s so impersonal. You need that human interaction."

They’re 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:

  • Don’t realize that they’re not supposed to pick up the phone when someone is online.
  • Can’t tell the difference between their child’s 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 haven’t met him. He’s 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...That’s it, I’m coming up there to abort download right now."

"But dad, we’ve been downloading ______(insert popular violent game) for over an hour. You can’t make us quit now."

"I don’t care how long you’ve been tying up the lines, you’re 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 child’s doing? Maybe you should figure out what you’re doing before you assist your child. Always good advice whether you’re 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 classmate’s parents listened to the same music that they did. Wouldn’t 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, don’t try to close the technology generation gap by learning computers. You didn’t want your parents to like the Beatles, so why embrace the Internet and ruin your child’s opportunity to possess the most rudimentary of all youth experiences, teen angst. How is he going to be able to complain, "My parents just don’t understand" if you install all his software for him?

1997, David Spark

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