Our children have never had it so good. If you were born in the twenty first century you will have never known life without the internet, you will have a mobile phone before you are ten and you will already have access to a tablet device. Children can speak to granny in Australia for free, youtube provides hours of free entertainment as well a fantastic visual way to learn and we no longer need to dig out the Encyclopaedia Britannica as reams of relevant information is available in seconds via Google. We are at the heart of a major revolution in communication, learning and progress and this is just the start.
But we know all this and yet middle class parents seem appalled by new technology, seeing it as an evil force that will turn their children’s brains into mush and stop them from developing normal social skills. Like the generation of parents that banned Elvis Presley for being too sexy, we are starting to sound like a bunch of out of touch fogeys who are pointing the boney finger of blame at a technology we don’t understand, for a generation we can’t control.
Worse than that, we all seem intent to replace the gap created by our technology boycott by an absurd obsession with everything old; dressing our children in vintage 70s clothes and making them play with beautifully crafted but boring wooden toys. We don’t want better for our children; we want them to have the same crap their grandparents had “back in the day.”
This is not a legacy bestowed upon us by our own parents. They embraced the new wave of gimmicks and gizmos that were appearing in the shops in the late 70s and 80s. As children we had a wealth of new cool things like Care Bears, Pogo balls, Wuzzles and armbands. We had ET and Alf and Big Bird. What little girl doesn’t want to a own a small pastel coloured pony with a brushable mane and tail? There were sticker book crazes and happy meal toys and it was all new and shiny and great.
But now we want our kids to play with well crafted German wooden toys made by Brio and expect them to wear towelling short shorts from Jules Oliver’s latest 70s range. We take all the photos of their childhood on our iPhones with crisp high definition and then Instagram the fuck out of it in the hope that it will look like a washed out, forgotten Polaroid from 1979.
Why bother giving our kids a boring old ipad when we can give them something vintage and wooden and REAL, like a fucking stick?
All we want for our children is to recreate the long hot summer of 1984 with endless picnics and cartwheels across sun dappled fields in Dash track suits devouring home made fish paste sandwiches and choc-ices from Bejam’s.
And I guess that’s fine. But are we so enchanted by the romance of childhoods of yesteryear that we are letting our children miss out? Parents are proud to say their kids have never been on the iPad or that they don’t have toys with batteries. What the actual fuck? When they get to school they will be learning simple programming and using these technologies every day. To not let them get a little bit of practice and exposure now is tantamount to sending them to school with a stone tablet and chisel in their backpacks.
I can hear you all now, “but what about proper books and reading and colouring and playing with some boring wooden farm house? My children will turn out to be a delinquent or, worse, working class.” Fucksakes. That’s what they said in the 50s when TV was invented. “Well, OK” you demure, “a little bit of iPad as a babysitter when we travel is OK but once we get there, it’s straight back to the Shakespeare and Proust for my toddler.” Technology doesn’t dumb our children down – an interactive toy that talks to you and teaches your child new vocabulary is as exciting and captivating as a bloody jigsaw of a golden retriever, isn’t it?
I’m not saying for a second we should let children stare into the abyss of a screen, playing the latest cbeebies app for eight hours a day watching their immature brains melt and ooze out of their ears with Postman Pat’s Special Delivery Service theme tune being that last thing they ever hear before we mop them up from the floor and pour them back into the cyber sphere. I’m not advocating texting each other when one person is upstairs to come down for dinner because you can’t face lifting yourself off the sofa, walking upstairs and talking face to face to your teenage children. Obviously, there are limits.
But let’s be realistic. The internet is amazing and a darn sight more exciting than a yo-yo or a cup and ball. Our children are immersed in it and we should be embracing it for their sakes.
And do you want to know who are the worst fucking culprits? Parents who not only spout all this nonsense about technology being a home wrecker and then want a load of vintage, sun bleached boring shit for their kids that looks like it’s from a car boot sale circa 1977 but, but, but THEY are the ones who are constantly glancing down at their own phones. They can’t even do a single session at soft play without tweeting, whatsapping and checking out what Victoria Beckham carries in her handbag when she gets on a plane. Their children recognise them across the playground as the ones with their heads bowed over the iPhone, squinting in the sunlight at the screen to find out the latest football score. They can’t go round the supermarket without updating their Facebook status and taking an instagrammed photo of some vintage looking packaging in Waitrose.
One day these parents will look up from their phone and realise their kids’ childhoods already passed them by. I at least I know that while I’m glued to my own phone as I push my children to the playground in their 1970s rainbow outfits, my kids are also face down, fully addicted to their iPad, which seems only fair.
Tags: 70s, 80s, Australia, childhood, children, Elvis Presley, Encyclopaedia Britannica, iPad, iPhone, Jules Oliver, middle class parents, Parenting, Technology, toddler, twitter, Victoria Beckham, vintage, waitrose, youtube