I graduated from high school 10 years ago next week. I know, that’s a long time, isn’t it?!
Besides realizing I’m not a kid anymore (Yes, it took that long!), it’s got me thinking about how different the world has been for the class of 2008 compared to how it was for me – a member of the class of ’98 – when I was coming of age.
We’re only 10 years apart, but, though we’re both apparently members of Gen Y, I definitely don’t feel “plugged in” in the same way they are.
In some ways, they were plugged in from birth. I had to plug myself in.
Here’s some of what I see is different:
1) Kids are never more than a click, text or Tweet away from one another. The ease with which today’s children can talk to each other – even to people on the other side of the planet – is stunning. And the technology they use to do this is amazingly simple, fast and reliable. Gone are the days when talking to my friend in New Hampshire required a long distance phone call from the household landline.
2) Kids are far more secure with their lives being far less private. They are comfortable putting themselves out there – posting photos, talking about their favorite TV shows, movies and books, creating networks of friends – on public social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. They create personalities for themselves, even if they are not entirely accurate, and are born “personal branders.” Only now are us adults realizing the value in creating our own online personalities too. Kids today are savvy self-marketers, and they don’t even know it.
3) Kids are digital creators, as well as digital consumers. When I was in high school, I listened to music, watched movies and too much television, read plenty of magazines and books and shopped at the mall. With the help of technology, kids today are creating videos (20 percent of teen boys and 10 percent of teen girls post video content online), and blogging through easy to use platforms like Blogger. This is good news, because a recent study says kid bloggers turn out to be better writers.
4) More information is available to more people faster. With internet use spreading, connection speeds increasing, and more content being posted to the Web everyday, teens have more access than ever to information on almost every topic. In high school, I think the only computer research I did was on an Encarta CD-ROM disk in my school library.
The problem we’re dealing with now is students are more comfortable using these technologies than their parents and teachers, for the most part. Kids are learning as they go – with little guidance and teaching from the older generations. For adults to make sure kids are smart “creators” and “communicators” online, they have to plug in themselves.
These are just a few of my observations. I haven’t touched on many of the other changes I’ve seen (greater competitiveness for college admissions, more kids taking more AP classes, kids starting to plan for college in [gasp!] middle school). These kids were also in sixth-grade on 9/11/01, and the country has been at war for a third of their whole lives.
If they’re Gen Y, then how is it that I am too?
I could go on. And I’m sure sometime I will…