Our world shifts so quickly now that for the first time in our species history, the rules and goalposts and threats are markedly different from one generation to the next. What impact does this have on society? There’s always been a sense of rebellion against parents – a you can’t possibly understand attitude, but is that becoming more and more true? That technology changes so much that a gulf widens between parents and their children? We understand our kids’ technology because, at 6 and 3, it’s still our technology. Our iPad and iPhones and old Nintendo DS. They are not yet online in any meaningful sense. In the coming years, though, they will take their own, independent steps into that world, and whatever new technology it brings. And by the time they are young adults, perhaps at university, or in a career, just imagine what the latest technology will be. Or, to put it another way, look back 15 years and recall the differences. No Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. No smartphones. No iPads. No talk of Amazon delivering by drone, no (serious) expectation of driverless cars.
What will the world look like in 30 years, when we may be grandparents, and our children are dealing with another whole new world their kids face?
In the same way that my parents can’t say, well, when you were little and being bullied on Facebook, we dealt with it by…, we may have little experience to know what to say or do.
The challenges of being a parent have, of course, never stopped. Dealing with kids going through mid-life crises, or adjusting to parenthood, or career problems, or divorce or depression and so on and so on. That has always meant that it remains a learning curve, but when the platform that society is based on alters so much, there is less common ground from one generation to the next. Will that mean we come to value the life experience of older generations less? Will the you can’t possibly understand attitude deepen because, perhaps, they actually don’t?
As people live longer and longer, this gap will widen even further. My nan died in 2012 in her early nineties. Her experience as a child compared to the experiences of our own was vast.
Or, is it an imagined problem? Does the medium not matter? Are the underlying problems always the same, and always will be? Do the raw emotions and feelings of jealousy, fear, shame, expectation, hope, love, anxiety exhibit in the same way and have the same effect on individuals and loved ones regardless of the arena in which they present themselves?
I suspect there is some truth in that. And ultimately, perhaps having such a wide range of life experiences across the generations is a good for the world. Children can and should learn about the past, and what better way than from those who lived it. As parents, it’s our responsibility to teach our children about the world they live in, to prepare themselves for any challenges that may come, and to facilitate an understanding of what life was once like.
Steve Mayes | Steve Mayes Photography