An entire generation is in denial. My generation, the technological immigrants who sailed into the technological age and had to adjust to the new culture in order to survive, is in denial. We bemoan the constant use of technology. Teachers of my generation struggle to get students to put the technology away. Parents shake their heads and retell poetic stories of having to go to libraries and look through card catalogs. We tell younger people to turn off the phone, the computer and the tablet. We send a message of generation gap when we say, “Stop texting and reading email – enough!” We are, however, hiding our own technological addictions. We aren’t admitting it. We are addicted, too.
I attend an unusual number of professional conferences each year. I am a frequent presenter I believe, in part, because I am engaging enough to actually get the people to put their technology down and listen. I like to walk into other presenters’ sessions and speeches to gauge audience reaction to different presentation styles. I am people watching. What do I notice most? People in lectures on their smartphones. Their thumb movements indicate when they are scrolling through social media. I can see the texting, waiting for reply and texting again. Rooms full of adults of my generation are doing exactly what we ask students to stop doing.
I pay attention to social media trends because I share this blog and other educational items online. I have to know where the people are posting and watching. The most well known trend is the shift in Facebook users. Facebook was created for college age students, then embraced by teens, discovered by my generation and quickly abandoned by the young. My young adult children and their friends tell me that my generation ruined Facebook for them. It simply isn’t cool to be on social media with all of the middle aged people. They have migrated to Instagram, Snapchat and other platforms. It was the massive number of people in my generation using Facebook that chased them elsewhere; yet, we click our tongues and shake our heads at our children on social media.
We, the immigrants of technology who have assimilated to succeed in this new landscape, need to admit it. We need to approach our societal technological addiction differently than we are right now at home and in classrooms. When I teach, I give my students a few moments to wrap up technology use before I begin. That is true of the 6th graders I teach as well as the 50-somethings for whom I provide professional development sessions. I give them a warning, “Two more minutes and the technology will need to be put away.” I tell my students – young and not so young – that I will put my technology away and If my phone is in my pocket, I need theirs to be too. They respect that. When I ask my students to tell someone my technology rule, they say, “If she puts it away, so do we.” I am living what I request of them. They see me put the phone away. They respect that and I know they do because they actually put the smartphones in their pockets when I put mine in my pocket.
Likewise, if my phone vibrates and I must check it, I allow everyone a moment to check their phones. I will not be that “do as I say, not as I do” adult in anyone’s life. Consider your use of technology and if you are asking of young people to do more than you are willing to do yourself. Are you distracted by the television when you should be meeting a responsibility? Admit it. Work with your child to walk away from distractions together. Are you supposed to be paying attention in an event but are looking at your smartphone? Think twice before you admonish your child or student from doing the same.
Close this gap in the generations by admitting it. You are as attracted to and distracted by technology as younger people. If you don’t think that you are pulled away from life by your email, texts, tablet, TV show or smartphone, at least admit this – technology isn’t going away. Its pull is only increasing so you need to find a way to say with your actions, “I know the card catalog isn’t coming back and that isn’t a negative observation about you. You are of your time and you need to be. Let’s work together to do all things in moderation.”
For the first article in this generation gap series, go to "Today's Generation Gap: The Great Food & Nutrition Debate."
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