SCREENAGER (CLUB PROMPT – FAMILY GAMES)

I am the mother of a screenager. That’s right. I said screenager, not teenager. A screenager is someone who has grown up in a digital landscape and spends most of their time in a digital world. When my second son was born in 1999, the Internet was just taking on life as a new way of doing things. But for Spencer and people born after him, the Internet wasn’t a new thing, it was just a thing that was always there. Having a screenager is a new experience for us. When our first son was at home, we didn’t even get a computer until he was in third grade. That computer wasn’t hooked up to the Internet for a long time and when it was, it wasn’t the experience kids today have on it. There were precious few sites for social networking at that time and connection and processor speeds were slow enough to make it a pretty frustrating and time-consuming experience trying to use the Internet in any useful way. But, fast forward a few years and the changes were huge! Not only is the internet accessible, but it’s now the way most people shop, communicate, research, interact, send and receive mail, look up phone numbers and addresses, make phone calls, and even do their banking. This is the landscape that Spencer has grown up in and boy does it move!

When I was a child, my life was predictable and routine. Unlike a lot of kids today, I grew up in the same house with both of my actual parents. I used my imagination to entertain myself when I was on my own, rode my bike, went swimming, had dinner with the family at 5.30p every night during the week when Dad got home from work. My social networking included: spending time with friends, playing with my siblings, having sleepovers, going to school, going to church and going out to dinner afterwards, and going to camp in the summers. Computers were basically unheard of in those years. Actually, I remember my Dad making me do math problems longhand instead of using a calculator saying, “You might not always have a calculator handy!”

My son’s life, however, is drastically different. The routine in his life is constant change. The technology he’s got in the palm of his hand is more than I ever could have imagined. On one device, he can tell you the weather in any location in the world, how long it would take you to get there, the customs of that area, the population, what kind of clothes to take, the best and least expensive way to get there, and plot a trip for you complete with car and hotel rentals setup, plane tickets bought, reservations made for dinner and a show, and tickets sent to that device all in about 7 minutes. This is not my world.

In my world, we played games growing up. We had games we played on our own like LEMON TWIST or ROMPER STOMPERS and we had board games we played with other people like MONOPOLY or CLUE. Some wonderful times were had when Dad would hit us fly balls to catch in the backyard or Mom would sit down for a game of Aggravation.

In Spencer’s world though, board games or even word games we used to play like I Spy or Hangman are archaic. I really have to struggle to get these in his realm. It was easier when he was little and I had a lot of control over what he did. I would sit down and play games with him like Ants in the Pants or Don’t Spill the Beans. But, though I fight its encroachment on our family life at every opportunity, the Internet has beaten me it seems. Now, they carry all their games around on their devices and there’s another way to play games now playing online with “friends.” I’m sorry. I have a problem with thinking of a person you’ve never met, never spoken to, and have no idea of their life situation as a ‘friend.’ But you see, that’s because I’m a Digital Immigrant and not a Digital Native like Spencer. A Digital Immigrant, I’m told, is someone who didn’t grow up in this digital landscape.

These I-Generation kids are used to information that comes flying at them from all directions from the moment they get up in the morning until the minute they fall asleep at night. They’re used to a lot more stimulation than we were. They’re a lot more expecting and a lot more demanding of their world. This could actually be a good thing. Generations that expect and demand generally create much change in their lifetimes. For all that we hear people bemoan the perils of the I-Generation, these kids are smart…probably smarter than us. Indeed, their brains are actually wiring themselves differently than ours adapting to the new world they inhabit. They can multi-task at a very young age. They can process information and make decisions in a snap. They aren’t scared to experiment with technology or anything else and they go out and find what they want to know faster than any of us ever could have using our encyclopedias or making a trip to the library. They deal with and understand a far-larger and more complex social network than we ever did and they learn (if they’re lucky) to consider possible long-term consequences of that far-reaching network out there much younger than us. If they have questions, they ferret out answers quite quickly. Finally, almost intuitively, they adapt to new things that come into their cyber world and under their power. I think that’s better than most of us do at this point with our fumbling thumbs and fingers trying desperately to make the small keys on our cell phones work or trying urgently to type e-mails and remembering what to click or how to attach or forward. For those of us raised on handwriting and licking stamps, the slickness of e-mail doesn’t seem real. It makes it hard for us to remember what we’ve already sent and who’s seen what.

But still, even using my digital cameras, my desktop computer, my touch-screen laptop, my mobile, and my GPS in the truck, in the end, I am still that immigrant to this digital world. I try and share with my son some games from the good old days when we go on ski trips to the resort where we sit around after a home-cooked dinner in our condo playing a family game of cards or 20 Questions or when we’re driving and I can regale him with a good game of Slug Bug or License Plates. But in the end, he is a Digital Native. His default is the world he was born into and he’s developing the skills to carry him forward into the world he’s going out into someday soon. I won’t be left behind so much as I’ll just not as progress as quickly as he does. But when the grandchildren come, I hope my boys know I’ll be sitting here waiting with some FaceTime just for them. My version of FaceTime…one-on-one, getting to know them and telling them stories about a world they can’t even imagine by then. Maybe we’ll even play a few card games just for the heck of it, huh?

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29 thoughts on “SCREENAGER (CLUB PROMPT – FAMILY GAMES)

    • Well, I don’t know that “they” (the kids) have invented this. It seems to stem from a writer called Marc Prensky, at least that’s the first time I heard it. But yes, I know what you mean…..it seems we’re destined to be “out of the loop.” I was actually reading an article yesterday that prompted this whole writing I did. This article was talking about how kids’ brains are now wiring themselves in a completely different way to how ours are wired in the body’s natural adaptation to new environments. It was actually quite a scary article in some ways realizing that no matter how hard we try, we aren’t wired the same way and eventually we will never fit in despite our best efforts. Ugh. Well, best we can do I decided was to capitalize on being DIFFERENT and UNIQUE! Thus, card games with the grandchildren! It’ll be a novelty by then!

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      • Yes – that is true about the grand kids . Hmmmmm- maybe threats of who will take us in our our old age? Maybe then we can join the club. We can out smart them and take back the world – I know we can – somehow, some way……. The old “I brought you into this world – I can take you out” just doesn’t hold up anymore. Sigh.

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        • Fear not, good lady! We don’t need to outsmart them to take back the world, if we just hang on long enough all our stuff will be back in fashion one day and we’ll be on top of it all when we pull out our old Rubik’s Cubes and Lemon Twists! (I just hope I can still move by then….Lemon Twist probably not so easy after hip and knee replacements!)

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  1. Great post. Although I would be what you would class as a digital immigrant, I couldn’t live without it now. I’ve met some of my best friends on line and still have a few to meet in person. For those like me, with self esteems issues it forces people to get to know the real you, assuming people are honest that is.

    That said, there is still nothing to beat a good game of Monopoly with friends 🙂

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    • Totally agree….as much as I resisted all this at first, look at me…I have a blog! I live on here now in alot of ways, but I still think life in real time is what makes the difference for me.

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  2. As I read your post my own clever, social, screenager, his thumbs flicking furiously over his X box controls is laughing, chatting and issuing orders over his headphones to his friends who live miles away. He and they are having a great time playing the game they’ve all chosen. It is a different world but one I think he and your screenager will be just fine in….
    First time blogger UK
    firsttimebloggeruk.wordpress. com

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    • Yes, I agree…they’re going to be just fine….we, on the other hand, are going to struggle to keep up! As I replied to someone else on here…..I’m planning now on using my inabilities in this new world to become an original with my grandchildren!

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  3. My son, now 25, was one of the first screenagers. He bought his first programming book with allowance at age 12 (the first of many) and self taught visual basic, dark basic, C++, HTML (obviously) and php. He graduated at 16, did a year of college (which he hated), then got a job as a web developer. At 25, he has 8 years of php programming under his belt and now works for Apple. How I despaired over him as a teen, plugged into the Borg, not living what I felt was a”normal” life! 😊 oh, the screenagers are not necessarily smarter than you or me. They are just armed with a different skillset. He will be fine, you’ll see… Oh, and he has become the biggest Pinochle fan! We are big card players. “Real” games will always be the most fun anyway!

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    • Yes, my older son is of the same age as yours (26 now) and was also one of those early screenagers. But those kids came to it in their teens as opposed to these kids now who have had it from birth. Still, you’re right, they are included in the Screenager category. My oldest is now almost through his Ph.D. in Particle Physics and has seen more of the world through his education than I could ever hope to. But both my boys are pretty good at going back and forth between my world and theirs. They’re patient with me and I’m determined to keep up as much as I can. So you’re right…they’re fine, we’re fine – and it’s all good because we’re all determined to stay connected.

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        • Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? But alas, your boy is actually making money already! BTW, I really recognized that comment you made about how much you worried he wasn’t living a “normal” life as a teen. We had same concerns. That’s what I mean by all this though…..we parents are in need of an upgrade….we just don’t get this new stuff sometimes….takes us alot longer to figure out that they know exactly what they’re doing and they’re doing just fine.

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  4. I hope those board games and family games and card games aren’t really gone. I can’t imagine that they are. We will always need face time. The REAL kind of face to face time. Great post.

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    • No, they aren’t gone yet, but am just noticing that the world doesn’t seem to have time for things like this anymore. It’s very strange to see things you took as a staple in your life disappearing over the years…interesting sometimes, sad sometimes, but in the end, it’s just what it is. Sometimes I can step back and get this perspective, other times I’m in the mix buying everything online, writing blogs and not thinking about it.

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  5. Although I’m not crazy about all the digital technology that surrounds us today, I am ever thankful for FaceTime. My folks live in another state, my oldest daughter is away at college. I miss seeing them as often as I would like, and FaceTime has given my son and I a way to “talk” to them anytime we want! My daughters grew up living close to my parents, but my son missed out on that opportunity, so talking to G’ma on his iPod keeps them close 😊

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    • Agreed on FaceTime (though I’m partial to Skype myself)….I’m not saying these things don’t have their uses at all..If you’ve ready any of my own stories on here you’ll know that currently I’ve moved away from my home of 20 years and all my family (save husband and son) and it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Couple that with having a son all the way across the country for the past 4 years and sometimes out of the country for periods and I know that Skype has literally saved me a whole lot of emotional turmoil since I can still videocall them all. But….am just saying, I see my (youngest) son’s world as a very different world than my own with all these gadgets and how much time he’d spend on it unsupervised and how the world just seems to be gaining ways to communicate better but doing less of the “real time” relationship thing in the process. But again, I know I can’t really stop it. I just have to learn to deal with it and keep finding ways to connect in real time with them too. For us who are caught between the two worlds, I think it’s a balancing act to keep both sides happy.

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  6. Miriam says:

    I completely relate to what you say here- my husband and I are always talking about how much slower we are with technology than our kids. We can figure things out, but it’s a laborious process. For our kids, it comes naturally- especially the two that were born in 2002 and 2005. My older two were born in 1991 and 1993, and while they’re not exactly dinosaurs like us, they didn’t grow up with technology being quite so ubiquitous.

    I don’t see any point in fighting it- to our kids this is the world they know, and they have no idea what it would even feel like to live in a simpler time. But I still think that people have the same basic longings for real human relationships and face to face contact, for time in nature, for things that you can touch and feel. I’m not sure that really changes, and I see our job as parents to make sure that our kids’ lives are balanced with non-tech stuff. I don’t see it as either/or, just making choices and finding a healthy balance. And I think kids are just as capable of appreciating that balance as adults are. Maybe even more so, in some cases.

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    • Thanks so much for the obviously well thought out and insightful response! Am always glad to meet people struggling with the same issues we are here (and even more happy to get great advice like “making sure our kids’ lives are balanced,” etc.!) I think you are right….it is a matter of finding a good balance. I think I fight this harder than alot of people because I’m not great with change myself. But again, though I’m sure you’re right about people needing human relationships, touching, feeling, etc., I think this whole digital thing is stealing alot of that from our kids and that’s another concern that I have in all this. But in the end, it’s all going to be what it is and we’ll deal with it…some of us better than others…..(I know exactly what you mean about the “laborious process” to work with these electronics!). Thanks again for the great comment.

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  7. I’d been meaning to comment on this post and mention how much I appreciate hearing someone else talk about how digital tech affects their child differently than their older children, and is so dramatically different than when we grew up. It’s going to be interesting to see how the digital generation acts once they take over.

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    • Yes, I think that will be quite a sight to behold. As I said to you before, scary and yet just incredible to think about. For sure, right now, we’re just struggling to maintain our place in all this, but I can see a time when I’m like my parents are now …totally dependent on me to guide them through the digital landscape….Yes, that thought gives me a shiver of apprehension I don’t mind saying….but then again, it seems to me that electronics are getting more user-friendly with every new generation they make, so perhaps we can hope for that much anyway……

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  8. alexkx3 says:

    Haha, this post made me feel old, and I’m only 25! I still don’t think you can beat a good game a monopoly though, there’s something very rewarding in slamming your piece down on the board when you land on a street you want to buy. It was nice to read an article about the i-generation that wasn’t paranoid about the dangers of technology. Though I do feel we have to be careful that technology enhances face to face interactions and not replace them.

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    • Ah finally! The voice of reason from a (I hate to stereotype, but…) twenty-something! I have a son who is 26 and I think he also is immune to some of the things the “younger” (hate to make you feel old again) generation of his brother are dealing with. But no, I’m not paranoid about technology…just trying to make sure there is a gain and not a loss like you said…..an enhancement and not a replacement. It is good when we can get the best of both worlds! Thanks for reading too. I really appreciate you popping by!

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  9. Your mention of calculators triggered a memory. One day, just before teaching my senior English class in a room just vacated by a math class, two young men were debating how much 5×12 was. Immediately, I said “60.” They looked at me and said, “No, that’s not right.” They ran it on their calculator, found it to be true, and looked at me in minor shock. “How did you know that?”
    “Well, in my day, we didn’t have calculators; we had brains that memorized times tables.”
    Technology has its place, but not when it tries to re-place human abilities and communication.

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    • Yes, that’s exactly it in one! Good analogy. (Does not speak well that the level of students you were dealing with there didn’t realize a basic times table though, huh? I do wonder sometimes whether alot of issues are coming directly from school systems!)

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      • I think so, especially at the grammar school level. The use of calculators has become universal. Also, students can’t write legibly. Granted, now they don’t have to with computers. The schools, I understand, have dropped teaching cursive writing. Now, most students print, and not too well!

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        • Oh, don’t even get me started on handwriting! I was SO ANGRY when they stopped teaching cursive, but it’s even worse than that now…they don’t really put any emphasis at all on printing! They start them on keyboarding skills now in Kindergarten and that’s all that seems to matter from there on out! I am not against technology on the whole, heaven knows I do almost everything online these days, but I am very much against leaving basic skills out of what kids are being taught. Soon enough they’ll be back to the days where they’re asked for a signature and the more advanced kids will only know how to scrawl an X in the dirt! 🙂 (Okay, probably not this bad, but you know what I mean).

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