Baby you’re growing up in a crazy world. Technology is so prevalent in your life. So much of how we interact with each other now is digital. You don’t know a world where you take a picture and you can’t see it right away. A world without email or the internet or cell phones. I am not that old but I clearly remember the time before computers…when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. In elementary school my library got a PET computer and then upgraded to the unbelievably fast Commodore 64. We weren’t allowed to touch it, but it was there. In Jr. High my class used to crowd around one Apple computer and watch our librarian/gym teacher play Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? In high school I took typing. It was called computers, but it was typing. I took a laptop the size of a small stump to University with me but email didn’t exist until my last year. To use it we had to go to a computer lab in the Engineering Building because no one had internet at home. Even then I didn’t go that often because there wasn’t anyone to email. Until high school if you called my house and we weren’t home you just missed the call. Call Answer was one of the fanciest things that happened to my teenage years.
This might sound a lot like the millenial version of “when I was young we used to walk 5 miles in the snow just to get to school…” and in a way, it is. You’ll never know how convenient and connected your world is because you have nothing to compare it to. On the flip side you’ll never know how simple things used to be, and for that, I’m kinda sorry. I can’t imagine going to school when everyone has a cell phone. A device that texts and records and is a constant reminder of how cool or not cool you are. I can’t imagine trying to learn (let alone teach) in a class with that technology. I shutter to think about going to high school parties knowing that anything I do could end up on the web. Every bad decision I made, every silly call, every drunken (yes, drunken, I was no saint) escapade is a memory for me. Something that can be remembered less clearly as years go by. Something that lives on only in stories. But for you, you live in a world where everything you do can be recorded and shared in real time. And once it’s out there it’s not going away. That’s horrifying to me. I had some fun times when I was young, ridiculous times even, but I am SO glad that no one has them on tape.
Kids can be mean and this kind of technology only exacerbates the potential for real hurt. Here’s my advice on technology: Take it. I promise I only have your best interests at heart.
1. No cell phones in class. I can’t believe I even have to say this. I don’t understand how all schools don’t have a leave your cell phone in your locker or at the door policy. It’s ludicrous to me. Class can be boring but you’re not there for kicks, you’re there to learn. You might goof off. You might tune out. But for the most part, without your phone, you’ll be taking it in. It’s respectful to the teacher and to yourself. Your dad and I will do everything we can to give you the best possible education. Do everything you can to get the most out of it.
2. If you can help it, avoid video when partying. This won’t always be possible, but things that seem hilarious at the time are just embarrassing played back later, and now with instant sharing, you can relive that naked dance for the rest of your life. You get my point.
3. Pictures are fine. They’re a blast. I’m all about pictures. Just be aware of what’s being photographed. Try not to be photographed drinking or doing anything illegal and for god sakes, don’t take naked pictures of yourself. Don’t SEND naked pictures of yourself. If possible, don’t encourage or accept naked pictures of others. There are so many weird rules now. Having a picture of anyone under 15 can be construed as child pornography, even if you’re a kid yourself. The world is not what it used to be. Ask the 5 year old boy who slapped a girl’s butt at recess and the police were called. He’s now a registered sex offender. He was 5!!! The world’s gone mad. Whether it makes sense or not is almost irrelevant. Don’t give them any rope to hang you by. Plus, the s#*t that happens to people’s intimate pictures after breakups should be enough to make you avoid it all together.
4. Be aware that everything that is put online is essentially public domain. Don’t have anything up there you don’t stand behind. You don’t have to be perfect, just make sure you’re online profile is PG. People are watching. Potential dates are googling you. Employers are checking up on you. Your mother is Facebook stalking you… be smart about what goes up because once it’s there it’s almost impossible to remove. This goes for things you say as well as for things you do. You want to be opinionated? Great. Own it and don’t be cruel. Snarky can be funny. Witty is amazing. Just don’t be mean. Never say anything online (or in person) that would truly hurt someone. Have absolutely nothing to do with bullying. Cyber or otherwise. We are raising you to be kind. To be empathetic. To be a leader. Be someone worth looking up to.
As a side note: If you find yourself on the receiving end of bullying, I am so sorry. Please know it will pass. Be as confident as you can in the knowledge that you are wonderful and that if people don’t understand you now, you will find people that will understand you later. Stay strong and get through it. People who bully are stunted in some way. There is something in them that holds them back from being truly happy. You, however, will be truly happy. If not now, then later. Stay true to who you are. Kids can be a^*holes. Don’t be one of them and don’t bow to them. You are better than that. I may or may not be here to know the man you’ll become, but darling, I know you’re better than that.
5. Direct more attention to people in real time than to people online. I’m seriously considering implementing a “no technology while interacting with others” policy in our house but your dad might implode and I’d struggle. Texts and calls are going to happen but be mindful of your environment. If there are real people in your space (and this includes Starbucks baristas, grocery store clerks and even people you don’t really like) be present for them and not for the person on the other end of the digital device. Unplug, or at the very least, acknowledge and apologize. It’s basic manners but it’s being forgotten fast. Recently your dad and I saw a bunch of 14 year olds at the movies. They were in the lobby in a circle and every single one of them was texting. Not talking. Texting. Who were they texting? Weren’t they out with their friends? Why were their cyber friends more important than their physical friends? I felt 100 years old watching that. I practically said, “These kids today…”
6. Take time to unplug. There is so much information out there and so many social media venues that you could be dialed in from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. I can’t tell you how often I watch TV, surf the web, text and check my emails all at the same time. Your dad and I deliberately didn’t get a TV in our bedroom because we wanted our room to be a haven for sleep, etc., but we get into bed and are both on our phones or iPads clicking away into the night. I know it will only be worse for you. Try to fight it. Play sports. Look out the window. Read a book. Talk on the phone. Talk to me…Be a part of the physical world as much as you are a part of the digital one. Give yourself the gift of boredom. Sometimes the best ideas come out of a quiet mind.
Also: DO NOT TEXT AND DRIVE. No joke. I have to stop myself from doing it. I’m always reminding myself if I get in an accident would that text have been worth it? The answer is always no. Your father has informed me that this will be a mute point by the time you’re driving but you get my point. Pick safety over socializing.
7. Finally, beware the over share. As shocking as it is to hear, everything you do is not important. It’s important to you and it’s important to me, your mother, but it’s not all interesting. I think the generations that are growing up surrounded by social media have become confused as to what’s news. Self editing seems to be losing ground to personal purging. Social media makes people both more aware of others, and infinitely more self centered. Highlights from your life are good. Mundane details of your daily routine are self involved. If the dinner you made turned out better than expected sure, take a picture of it and post it with pride, but daily pictures of your lunch are irrelevant. Don’t post about doctors appointments, or body issues or toilet behavior. Somethings should just remain private no matter how public the world has become.
You live in a connected world. You have had an iPhone since you were 1. You cyber chat with our friends and relatives all over the world. You will remain close with friends you would otherwise lose touch with. You can talk to your girlfriend without the danger or your dad picking up the phone. But remember that you are a person and not a machine. The world goes too fast for us to keep up. Don’t try. As the Buddist’s say, Do what you’re doing when you’re doing it. If you’re at the beach or a party or at dinner just hang out and be with who’s there. Don’t post pictures or text about it, don’t check your email, don’t see what others are doing that might be better. Just do what you’re doing while you’re doing it. In my day that was a given. Now you could miss your life while posting about your life. Don’t. Let technology help you not rule you.
I love you.