You can learn a lot from your parents and grandparents about bringing up a child based on the difficulties they faced when bringing you into the world. But what about the new modern challenges? The ones they didn’t have to face? The challenges that are new to our generation.
The biggest difference in modern life is, of course the internet and other technological advancements. In a lot of ways, it has absolutely helped, we are all much more able to safeguard our children these days, we have access to a much wider base of information and support and the advancement in medicine means that medical conditions that previously were little understood and extremely hard to deal with are now much more manageable and parents have a much larger sphere of support to deal with such conditions.
However, on the flipside, a big downside is the transparency of the internet. How many of us aged 18, thought of potential future children when we stood up on a stage after a few too many, belting out an ill advised ‘performance,’ that now with a simple google search will turn up on You Tube? And that’s an example of a really simple embarrassment, the extent of stupid decisions made when younger goes far deeper and these days, if you weren’t on your own, you can guarantee you’ll be tagged on Facebook, ‘hashtagged’ on twitter and ‘reblogged’ on tumblr. No doubt our parents and our grandparents made stupid, ill advised decisions as youngsters, ones that they can sit back and relax, gleeful in the knowledge that it would very virtually impossible for us to ever find out about it.
This obviously has exceptions; there was never going to be any hiding of that silly little ‘broke with the Catholic Church and created the Church of England in order to marry Anne Boleyn who I then had beheaded’ incident that Henry VIII’s children would inevitably have heard about. I’m referring to your Dad writing off three of his Dads cars because of being a bit of an irresponsible speed demon in his early twenties; unless he chooses to tell you about it (or your Grandad tells on him) you won’t find it on his old twitter feed “@Nicks only gone and done it again LOL #driveroftheyear” with an accompanying photo.
As parents in the 21st century, we have to accept that our past is searchable, and not with much effort required at all. Doing a quick look myself and within 5 minutes I find horrendous clips from a few shows I was part of when much younger, pictures with nearly every past boyfriend I’ve ever had as well as more ‘hilarious’ pictures from nights out than I’d care to own up to when trying to teach my child against binge drinking. I can picture it now, “Mum I didn’t drink as much as you obviously had done when you fell asleep dressed as Minnie Mouse hugging a fire extinguisher…” Yes well, that’s not the point actually young lady…
Likewise, you know those teenage angst years when you were madly in love with the absolute love of your life and posted Dawson’s Creek style essay statuses on MSN chat about how much you were meant to be and no-one understood your true love? They don’t permanently go away either! Even if or when the relationship does. Nor will any of those really public arguments that young couples seem to have a lot of online these days with their partners or ex partners. My husband and I are very lucky, we have both had other long term significant relationships but we also luckily have had good enough taste that they are decent people and we’re on good terms with our ex partners. I cannot imagine children in the not too distant future turning to their parents and asking why Mummy has called Daddy a ****** ******* on Facebook after a misguided short tempered social media update!
The internet has led to an almost uncontrollable urge for people to overshare their lives and after nearly a decade (2005 is the unofficially recognised year that social media started really taking off) with so many problems caused by the internet to people’s relationships and careers (employers regularly now check a candidates online presence and a frightening high percentage of couples are citing Facebook issues during divorce court cases) it does seem to already be a trend that a lot of people are wanting to change. Security and privacy settings are much more strictly attended to and for the first time in ten years, although the number of ‘selfies’ are on the rise, the number of people sharing pictures of their wedding day/new baby and other personal events are on the (very slight) decline.
There’s no doubt about it, over the next twenty/thirty years parents from our generation have a lot more explaining to do! And I am a firm believer that kids benefit from learning from your mistakes. However that doesn’t mean I want video evidence to back up that learning curve! The internet is a fantastic modern advancement, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s definitely worth bearing in mind its immediacy and permanence. Even if you don’t have kids yet, although it’s a fabulous opportunity to show them your life experiences, it might be worth remembering when you accept that ‘run round the university campus naked after downing ten shots,’ challenge, that the nearby video camera isn’t necessarily going to remain your friend in the morning…