Mind the Generational Gap

It is interesting as a parent and challenging at times, to navigate the use and exposure of technology with 2 teenage daughters. With a plethora of online sharing tools available, I am often learning as much from my daughters about the world of social media, as I am from my own informal investigation and formal study. It is quite amazing to think that many youth of today can not remember, or have never experienced, life without touchscreen devices and unlimited Wi-Fi access. It is this way of life that sets children in a different technological mindset to their parents, and an even larger difference between themselves and their grandparents. As much as technology and social media can open up opportunities to connect with people all over the world, the flip-side of this is the risk that if you don’t get on the technology train of thought, you will be left behind.

I would like to share a personal story that showcases this notion. A 70 year old woman has 4 grandchildren. When they were babies, the families lived close enough to visit on a regular basis, but now they are all teenagers and the families have spread apart. Over the past 5 years all of the grandchildren acquired mobile devices and computers that allowed them access to a magnitude of online sharing and connecting tools. They all have their favourites, creating online accounts and profiles to stay up-to-date with their friends. As a parent of 2 of these children, I have had the privilege and opportunity to ask them to teach me more about their online behaviours and likes. Their grandmother did not, and felt an increasing sense of being ‘left out’ when conversations arose within technology, devices and social media. She wanted to be up-to-date with their lives and interests, and desperately wanted to connect with them more often.

Image Source: http://www.mcrfb.com/?attachment_id=32420
Image Source: Motor City Radio Flashbacks

Then.…..along came an iPad.

This technology cautious grandmother threw herself into a digital storm, purchased an iPad and asked anyone who used one to teach her more. She soon had her contacts, emails and favourites set-up, and was able to start emailing her grandchildren. I was also lucky enough to become her tech support lifeline. This grandmother was motivated by the want and need to be closer to her family members and stay connected, and in this scenario she was able to do something about it. She may have been hesitant to get on the technology train at first, but was fortunate to have a support system around her to bridge the digital generational gap, which is very real for many people today. Buckingham & Willett (2006) also acknowledge this generational gap through Tapscott’s (1998) writings about children using technology as naturally as breathing, as they seem to possess intuitive, spontaneous relationships with digital technology. My concern is that for older generations who have never created such a relationship with new technological information, devices, and a patience support team, they may be left behind in isolation.

A possible solution to this is demonstrated in the following video, which shares how some generations struggle to keep up with the constant change in technology. New Brunswick Libraries have programs in place to help everyone keep up to speed. We need to see more libraries in our communities, both public and school based, take on this challenge also. I know I will be more mindful of this issue as I plan new adventures and services provided by our school library in the future.