“Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’’?” Matthew 21:16
Many will remember the story of the apple falling on Sir Isaac Newton’s head in the 1600’s. Whether true or not, he is recognized as having discovered gravity. Basically, water normally flows downhill. That’s a fact of nature. It trickles down.
But there are other forces that can reverse that. A strong wind, such as one when your car is traveling fast, can cause rain to trickle up your windshield, not down. It takes a fairly strong force to overcome gravity.
When it comes to generations, the normal course is for the older generation to “pass it on” down to the next one. What gets passed on are generational values, ethics and, hopefully, spirituality.
But when it comes to technology, the polarity of passing it on reverses. It would appear that the younger generation’s use of digital technology is actually trickling up to older generations.
We view generations from the lens of history and experience. We see “new” technology from a historical view. iGens don’t see it that way. They only know the newest technology. It’s not new to them. It’s their norm.
For the rest of us, we knew about flip phones and “dumb” phones. iGen has a clean memory slate when it comes to past technology and history, Instead of them adapting to us, we are adapting to them.
iGen is the first generation to only know smartphones. Our idea of a smartphone came from the Dick Tracy watch of the 1960’s. He had a cool watch which acted as a phone. It was really far-fetched in its day.
Now we have iWatch or Apple watch from Apple which is like a miniature computer on your arm. No one thinks it is far-fetched anymore. It can tell time, check your pulse, give you the weather or stock market report, and you can google or use Facetime on it.
Early on, Facebook was embraced by millennials. But when grandma wanted to look at pictures, she was used to having a real picture in her hands. That’s gone away with digital pictures.
Grandma had to join Facebook to see pictures, so she took the plunge. Then, she started commenting on the pictures much to the horror of her children and grandchildren.
Even my wife refused to get a smartphone for the longest time. She now has an iPhone and an iPad. She uses Facetime with our grandkids, some of whom call her every day. She caved in because it was a convenient way to stay connected.
This was unthinkable just 10 years ago. The iPhone was introduced in 2007. In five years, over half of the younger generation had smartphones.
When I travel to remote places like Sub-Saharan Africa, everyone has a mobile phone. If they can access WIFI or the internet, they have a smartphone. No one thinks twice about it. Smartphones became the norm so quickly that it’s hard to imagine a world without them.
But not all is perfect with this embrace of digital technology. It brings with it some disorders like loneliness, anxiety and depression that are just now being discovered. The technology is so new that it has taken a couple of years to tie these disorders to being caused by digital technology.
Parents and mentors are now rethinking as to how to dial back the amount of screen time the kids of the next generation are getting. A significant drop in vocabulary and the ability to think critically over the past decade are also byproducts. None of these are good consequences.
While technology is “trickling up” to older generations, the response needs to be measured and clear. The Greek historian, Hesiad said it best: “Observe due measure, moderation is best in all things”. Sometimes, too much of a good thing may not be all that good.
Parents are being accused of being distracted by smartphones, even at the dinner table. They need to be aware that it’s not just their kids’ screen time that needs to be monitored.
This is not just an American phenomenon. Millennials are similar everywhere in many ways. It doesn’t matter if you are in Asia, Mexico, Africa or North Carolina.
The challenge here is to help the next generations develop sane and sound habits around new technologies. This is easier said than done because the embrace of the digital world is so pervasive that peer pressure often is a barrier to changing habits.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Learning the benefits of a technology from iGen has to be coupled with understanding the risks of overuse. A mentor should be aware of when a mentee crosses the line in order to guide them.
FURTHER READING: Harvard Business Reviewon how Generations X,Y and Z are (or aren’t) similar in 19 different countries (2017).
Atlantic: The Dangers of the Distracted Parent(2018)
Kerstner: Disconnected:How to Reconnect our Digitally Distracted Kids.
WORSHIP: As we approach Christmas, listen to I Heard the Bells on Christmas Eve.
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