opinion

Pom in Oz: Kids behave differently in a different world as digital media creates generational divide

Derek GoforthMidwest Times
Kids today behave differently because they are living in a different, digital-focused world.
Camera IconKids today behave differently because they are living in a different, digital-focused world. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

What is discipline? Do our children lack it? And does it mean the same thing as it did 20, 30, 50 years ago?

It’s a cliche to say that “kids today” are poorly behaved compared to generations past. But is there anything to it?

I have been involved in education or youth work now since the early 1990s. In that time have I seen a fundamental change in the behaviour of children? Yes, of course I have. But I do not believe it is due to any intrinsic change in children’s attitude — more how children are dealt with or accommodated. But even more so, the entire concept of being a child has radically transformed in that time.

Are you like me and long for the halcyon days of your own childhood, when things were simpler, easier, and nobody tracked your every move with a GPS device? Well, you are not alone. The advent of mobile devices, social media and digital photography has made the world a different place for kids than it was just three decades ago.

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Social distancing was a thing well before COVID, you just didn’t realise it. Just a few decades ago, when you wanted to hang out with your friend, that meant actually seeing them in person.

Today, it just means picking up your device or logging onto your console.

There is a basic lack of physical activity required for interaction with peers in our kids’ lives. The impact is going to be in the essential skills we learn through body language and face-to-face collaboration. While much of human communication has been done through facial expression and body language, social media and text messages do not give us those cues.

Social distancing was a thing well before COVID, you just didn’t realise it. Just a few decades ago, when you wanted to hang out with your friend, that meant actually seeing them in person.

Back in my day, you could do an embarrassing or stupid thing and then it was forgotten relatively quickly, especially if it was done amongst friends. Today though, if you do something like that, you can nearly guarantee it’s posted on social media and shared out so the world can see within minutes of it happening.

It’s a fact that kids live in the moment by nature; it seems complex for them to deal with this reality in which an inappropriate picture from an event can hurt their future prospects a great deal. Kids don’t seem to be the best fortune tellers, unable to anticipate future events.

It’s a reality that we all live in a world that we can be exposed even in private situations with relative ease by others. Either with good intentions or more malicious ones. So yes, kids do behave differently. Worse? Better? I am honestly not sure. But you can’t argue with the facts. The world we grew up in is like a different planet.

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