Children are the Future and They’re Mucking It All Up

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By way of Zach Klein comes a really interesting feature from the upcoming issue of New York magazine, “Kids, the Internet, and the End of Privacy: The Greatest Generation Gap Since Rock and Roll.” Unless you’re a kid yourself, reading this is a sure fire way to make yourself feel old. We consider ourselves “hep” but by page two of the article, we realized just how out of touch we are with twelve to fourteen year olds (which is likely a good thing). Overall, it’s something we’ve all got in the back of our heads, with these MySpaces and this Facebook jibber-jabber, but it’s tremendous to read it on paper, consider it, then think, “Well, at least we can drive and buy lottery tickets, suckers.” Here’s some:

Clay Shirky, a 42-year-old professor of new media at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, who has studied these phenomena since 1993, has a theory about that response. “Whenever young people are allowed to indulge in something old people are not allowed to, it makes us bitter. What did we have? The mall and the parking lot of the 7-Eleven? It sucked to grow up when we did! And we’re mad about it now.” People are always eager to believe that their behavior is a matter of morality, not chronology, Shirky argues. “You didn’t behave like that because nobody gave you the option.”

None of this is to suggest that older people aren’t online, of course; they are, in huge numbers. It’s just that it doesn’t come naturally to them. “It is a constant surprise to those of us over a certain age, let’s say 30, that large parts of our life can end up online,” says Shirky. “But that’s not a behavior anyone under 30 has had to unlearn.” Despite his expertise, Shirky himself can feel the gulf growing between himself and his students, even in the past five years. “It used to be that we were all in this together. But now my job is not to demystify, but to get the students to see that it’s strange or unusual at all. Because they’re soaking in it.”