GenNext: Is technology the next generation gap?

Yesterday’s The Times of India carried an interesting article (Do you fear the ‘devil’ in your child’s mobile?) on how technology is increasing the disconnect between parents and their teenage children. You can click the link above to read the full article, but this is what I read:

…She has begun almost to ‘stalk’ her 17-year-old daughter…the teenager was always on the phone. If not talking on her mobile, she was texting. Neetu had already moved the family computer to the living room to watch over her daughter’s online behaviour…So, she’s been waking as early as 4 am to check her daughter’s phone.

Neetu is one of many parents fearful of the digital divide between their generation and their tech-savvy children…

…Neetu’s ‘stalking’ underlines the desperation of parents who feel the ground slipping from under their feet…

But a US study … says … Teenagers take to new media like fish to water, integrating them in their day-to-day lives without harming themselves or those around them. Friends meet in school, text each other on their way home, go online to share notes and chat from home. Thereby, they create a full-time intimate community and are in ‘always-on mode.

…The researchers concluded that young people are more social than ever before and use the new media to navigate their social world…

There is no equivalent study for Indians, but observers say teen behaviour follows similar patterns in a globalized world…

…Mobiles are part of teen culture now…it is practically impossible to keep those 12 and older away from a mobile. “If a mobile is confiscated, friends will buy them new ones. Staying intouch is essential, at any cost. Parents’ anger is taken into account.”

Bhatt (specialist) says there is really no way to restrict a teenager’s cellular contact… The mobile connect is so intertwined with teenagers’ social lives, that they may top up each other’s cards, swap numbers and do whatever it takes to keep the link alive.

… the Class 12 girl poured out her woes. She wasn’t allowed a mobile, but had a secret number…Parents have to understand that the moderation they seek has to be in partnership with the child.”

…Teenagers perceive mobile phones and network sites as extensions of themselves.

But are today’s teenagers that different? Is there that much of a generation gap?

cellphones have been in India since 1985, however in these short 20 years, we have become one of the more prolific cellphone users in the world. We seem to use it everywhere and at all times – including while driving, while crossing the street, while watching a movie at a public cinema, at the dining table while having a meal, at social events, etc – whatever the occasion, we don’t seem to be able to manage our usage to socially, and in some cases, legally acceptable norms. If the adoption of the cellphone by GenX (people who have adapted to technology) is so radical and complete, then why do they fear its use by the GenNext (people who have been born into technology and for whom it is a native skill). Its about time GenX recognized the shifting digital landscape and accepts that technology will continue to play a dominant role in the lives of today’s teenagers. Instead of fearing technology, we need to look at the many ways in which it can make a positive contribution to their lives. To illustrate, click here for an innovative way in which cellphones have been used as a classroom learning tool.