Children today have the world at their fingertips. Literally. Can you imagine the world before the digital era where we were free from all the technological advancements and YouTube wasn’t a classroom supplement?
Looking back to the days when I was in elementary school and comparing them to how things are now with my son, I realize that there are several classic childhood experiences that he will never experience.
- Listening to music how can be done on your phone, and many kids now have their own. Few would use iPods these days too, and definitely the walkman is like a rare sighting. I remember walking home from school, carrying my walkman and sharing songs with my friends that were recorded on cassette tapes. Today, you can search all your songs on YouTube and don’t need to pre-record anything to listen to on-demand, as long as you have WiFi connection or cellular data. Also, devices to listen to music are becoming smaller and smaller. Even headphones now have become wireless.
- Remember growing up and waking up early on a Saturday morning just to catch morning cartoons? Nobody likes to wake up early unnecessarily, but with Netflix and other streaming devices, you can watch cartoons any time, any day. You don’t have to wait until the weekend to watch them, and you can sleep in if you really wanted to. Modern kids won’t have this anticipation feeling of waiting for the next episode because they easily watch shows or re-runs at their own leisure.
- Paper maps are really obsolete now. With smartphones containing the Google Maps app, and GPS systems in cars, nobody really needs to look at a map anymore, let alone actually understand how to read it. Now, I’m terrible at map reading too, which is ironic because I’m a Geography graduate. But, all children know now is the mechanized voice that calls out directions or to just ‘ask Siri.’
- I remember renting movies back in my earlier days at Blockbuster, but with companies like Netflix appearing in recent years, Blockbusters went out of business. Children used to have to add their names on waiting lists to rent a popular movie that never seemed to be available in the store.
- Disposable cameras were something kids used to bring around all the time for field trips, but with smartphones, taking photos digitally has become easier and you no longer need to wait for your pictures to be developed to see how it looks. Obviously, it has become easier to share photos as well, but kids will never have the experience of taking photos in this fashion and appreciating limited amount of space to take photos too.
- Metal playgrounds used to be the thing of the past. I remember going out for recess and not wanting to play on the slide because our butts would feel burnt from the hot, metal slide. Come on, you know what I’m talking about. Well, playgrounds are built with safer materials these days and many parks even have this sponge-like material rather than rocks or sand, but getting your tooshie burnt was part of the park experience as a child.
- With most children receiving electronic devices at a younger age, the use of payphones has become even less common. Children might never know what placing a collect call means, or even consider putting a coin into the machine to make a phone call.
- This one is still experienced by gamer kids, but in a different medium. Game Boy was the popular gaming device for children back then, and there are many similar ones like Nintendo Switch. However, with smartphone game apps and iPads these days, children don’t necessarily need to buy a device that’s only used for gaming to play games. Children might never know what it was like holding a device that doesn’t have a backlight, and sneaking in a few more rounds when it’s supposed to be lights out at bedtime.
- The Tamagotchi. Oh yes, I remember having one in my junior days. Kids will never understand the agonizing pain of forgetting to feed your Tamagotchi and discovering it died because it missed too many meals. This simple device was highly coveted in the 90s and even though they still have them today, few actually play with them. Rather, they will play on apps that simulate having a pet on their phones or iPad.
- Newspapers are still read by the general public, but they are also become more and more obsolete. Well, the printed paper version at least. Even so, it’s usually the older generation that would be willing to grab a printed publication or newspaper to read on the subway. Children rarely would read newspapers these days because they can get all their news digitally on news websites, like CNN or CBC news.
- On a similar note, encyclopedias are now a thing of the past. Remember your parents purchasing a giant multi-volume encyclopedia or going to the library just to look up something. Modern-day children will never understand the frustration of having to look up something because they can easily do an internet search in a few seconds.
- Memorizing phone numbers or carrying a pocket phone book was common. But nowadays, you don’t even need to try memorizing numbers because you can easily look them up in your phone’s contact list and just press a button. I remember my parents telling us we must memorize their numbers whenever we went out with friends so in case they had to reach us, it would be possible.
There are probably a whole bunch of other experiences you might have experienced in the past that children nowadays won’t face because of advancements in our everyday lives. As things become more portable, accessible, and convenient, our experiences in the world changes. Honestly, that’s probably why sometimes we find it hard to connect with our children since there is a generation gap. Fortunately, I’m not too far away in age from my child, but it does make a difference and it sometimes puts things into perspective in how they are living life. There are times when you want to just shake your head because they are missing out on basic life skills (even something like cursive writing is rarely taught in school now because everyone just types their reports on the computer). But, there are other things that are better for them like the availability of technology, giving them an unlimited source of knowledge to grow and learn.
What experience do you think you most connect to? Do you worry that your children (or future kids) are missing out? Or is it just something we need to accept because we must change with the times.