Since www.childrenwebmag.com‘s was first established, I have had the pleasure to contribute various articles on the way we train children in residential placements to cope with the art of everyday life. Now, looking into the rear-view mirror, I have to admit how very difficult it can be to foresee what sort of impact fast developing technology has had on children from very early childhood. I read with great interest that researchers keep coming up with new results about the impact of technology, even on babies as well as older children, in their development as human beings.
People like myself who have reached retirement age are also taking every advantage of new technology. I too use an MP3, not just for my favourite music and radio, but to hear books read this way is quite pleasant. I do not lose my way driving a car thanks to the GPS gadget. I still believe I have not become a slave of technology, as I choose where and when I use the gadgets. So far I have refused to have it disturbing experiencing to the full being outdoors. Here I want to listen to the sounds of nature around me, and so my mobile is shut down until I need to use it.
Meeting the baby in the pram totally absorbed in the computer, I simply had to take the attached photo. Babies have always used and explored whatever they came across. They are born with that wonderful curiosity which is fundamental in supporting them in their development as human beings. We adults simply have a different attitude to any development in the technical world. We are so impressed by its possibilities that this feeling, put together with all the time we spend learning to use the gadgets, makes us have a different attitude from children, who simply take it all in without further consideration on what it might do to their everyday life. Because of these different approaches to technology, a great cultural division has arisen between the generations. – maybe the biggest generation gap ever.
When at the same time the ‘old’ way of everyday life has changed so dramatically over recent years, any adult dealing with today’s children has to consider seriously which are the most important values he or she should keep in mind to have an influence on children.
Over recent years I find that children and youngsters are very disturbed when it comes to organising their everyday lives, and no wonder, as most parents have the same problem. The ongoing great need of cash means that many teenagers have a job outside school hours, at least in Denmark. They have school homework. They spend much time chatting or sending SMS on their mobile phones. Parties and visits to discotheques over the weekend are a must for most over 14 years of age, where alcohol often has too dominant a role.
If they also happen to be involved in sport where they train several times over the week, they really have a full timetable, and are in need of receiving ‘good service’ at home. All this makes children develop into demanding youngsters with high expectations, who believe they are almighty and give their parents nervous breakdowns when addressing them in the vulgar language they hear all day round from their peers and the media.
The most popular Swedish author at the moment, Stieg Larsson, has written a trilogy, which was a must-read all over Scandinavia this winter. Stieg Larsson has in a splendid way taken a computer expert named Lisbeth Salander as one of his major characters. This girl has been pierced all over, she has a snake tattoo on her back, her hair is dyed black and she dresses like a punk. She has great personal problems, but is so bright that she can crack any computer problem and therefore becomes indispensable to a journalist, who is cracking some very hard crime cases. At the end, the reader cannot help having some sort of sympathy for the girl.
The result is that one starts seeing some of those odd people who stand out from a new perspective. It becomes easier to address the assistant with the queer look in the supermarket. One becomes a little more tolerant, sometimes over-tolerant or – which standpoint should one take? What is sound thinking, and what leads the wrong way for youngsters? How can we support them to develop their individual skills and personalities in order to find their identities – at the same time as they learn to live and show respect towards the common human traffic rules that secure safe ‘traffic’ for everybody?
How do we educate and train staff so that they have the skills to handle our children and youngsters in a way that they are able to acknowledge right from wrong?
Again I turn towards the difference between generations. Children are in general critical of their parents and at the same time they have an emotional attachment to them. Parents are critical of the behaviour of their children. Do children fulfil the expectations of their parents at a time when most of them do not have to make material sacrifices for themselves in order to provide education for their children? The parents are identity figures for the children, and as they do not deny themselves materially, the children copy their habits and mix them with whatever they meet in society. Many of today’s children treat their parents with disrespect when they get angry with them – a pattern they see all the time in the media, “Don’t put up with anything!”
But grandparents are addressed in a different way. We still have a generation of grandparents who themselves raised families at a young age. They have roots in a different time after World War II and live in a different way, where they are often able to see youngsters from another perspective. They too grew up during fast-changing times. Being that much older and not having the direct responsibility for the children, if they have to correct the youngsters, they often do it in a humorous way, which is always a better approach. But grandparents also have the advantage of seeing life from a much longer perspective because of their age.
It is my personal experience that if the two generations of parents and grandparents get on well, they can work together in the interests of the child, but unfortunately life is not always like that. One of the reasons might be geographical distances between the family members. Here the Internet and SMS have come in as a great development, because, if used well, the different generations are able to be in close contact without a great expense. Contact, concern and respect are essential ingredients in our lives if we are to fulfil our place as human beings. If we also are able to teach the youngsters ‘the art of everyday life’ (see one of my previous articles in Children Webmag), I believe we have done the best we can for our children.
Finally, I hope that Children Webmag can continue to be a vitamin injection of inspiration over the years to come, for all people who are dealing with our children and youngsters.
Vibeke Lasson is a Consultant with 30 years’ practical experience in residential child care.
Mikkelborg Park 25, 2.tv.
( 33 79 37 47 – e-mail: [email protected]