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Generation Net

February 9, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Our five year old daughters have taken to asking us for random information, e.g. “Daddy, what did the first animal look like?”  As they watch my brows furrow trying to come up with a good answer,  on more than one occasion, I have been urged to “google it.”    For kids who cannot use a computer intelligently yet, they have realized that Google is a great source of answers beyond the ready reckoning of their parents’ intellect.

Today Enya asked her mother a second-order question: how does Google know everything?    And like several complex concepts before it, her mother proceeded to explain the functioning of web search to a five year old.  The questions kept coming.  How did all this information get on these computers for Google to search?  If humans put it there, how did they know the answers already?

    We were mulling the implications of her questions over dinner and came to the conclusion that we are raising kids who take access to knowledge for granted.   While they will still indulge in “the pleasure of finding things out” they will find answers more readily.   The Net makes it possible for them to leverage the economies of learning more effectively than us or any generation before us by several orders of magnitude.   The downside: they are growing up sooner, some are losing their innocence prematurely perhaps because of free access to everything regardless of how appropriate it is.   Sensible parenting principles apply at all ages and we as parents are constantly challenged to leverage the good and counter the bad.  Our kids will have to use us as a conduit for knowledge for a few more years.

    Extending the analysis, in the West, children are already watching more video on Youtube and movies and shows on Hulu than they do via cable, satellite or broadcast.   Music has long gone digital (streamed or downloaded over the net).  All communications (voice, mail and video) are funneled through computers.    After Gen X and Gen Y, I think of this Gen Next as “Gen Net” because they have known nothing but the networked world we live in today.   We read our girls books and newspapers every day  and I am hoping that despite the onslaught of e-readers, we will have books around long enough for my daughters to be hooked on to the romanticism of a used page turner and the heady smells of a new hardcover opened in a quiet corner of a book store.

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    Categories: Life, Media
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