Speaking to older and younger people, you’ll notice that each generation says they were born in the best times. An older person might say the days of their childhood were the luckiest because they had no TV or computers and they grew up as if life was an adventure. Children of today believe they’re growing up in the best times because of the technology. A tree can be found anywhere but not everyone has xBox.
The truth is that none of us knows anything besides what we, ourselves, experience and as a 52 year old I look back to quite a different childhood to my parents’ and to my children’s childhoods. I grew up in the same house in Melbourne that my father grew up in. He and I climbed the same trees as I did. We both rode our bikes around the same neighbourhood, though it was mostly paddocks in his time. We attended the same primary school at the end of our street. Most of our neighbours were even the same people. Mum was a country girl and had a different life again.
Dad was born during the Great Depression, between WW1 and WW2. Like everyone else, his parents struggled to put food on the table and life was a huge gamble that didn’t always pay off. Dad’s father often brought transients into the house for a meal, a shower and a packed sandwich before they went on their way. I knew all about my parents’ childhoods and how lucky I was to be growing up in the 1970s. The truth was, though, I didn’t know anything about life outside my street or my family. I thought my childhood was obviously better than Mum and Dad’s because mine was the first generation of children who were free to play outside building cubbies, playing cricket, kicking the footy, climbing trees and riding bikes. Weekends were spent with extended family and we knew everyone in our neighbourhood by name.
My daughters were born in the early to mid 1990s and they have grown through the transition from an active, outdoors childhood to computerised play and the information highway. Their generation had a lovely blend of inside and outside, old and new; and it was intriguing, exciting and also a little scary for me to watch the changes.
My youngest was aware of homosexuality in primary school and decided to be a Human Rights Lawyer so that she could defend people’s right to live their life as they wanted – and to ensure child slavery and other injustices were abolished. This may seem a strange thing for me to admit, but I was in my early twenties before I became aware that homosexuality was a thing (and that there was hateful discrimination against these people). I didn’t know about child slavery or many of the other injustices that my girls discussed when I was their age, either.
My daughters are now in their early twenties and they each love the ways technology enhances their lives, though I still don’t really know what they use technology for or how they even know these apps and widgets exist. The last amazing thing my girls helped me to discover was Spotify, an app which I can program to play the type of music I like.
The Internet seems to have created a social life that we can participate in whilst alone and I think it’s important not to forget to catch up with friends and family on real life outings; real life laughter; reminiscing of old times and making plans for the future; taking photos of togetherness; assessing the climb-ability of a nearby tree; the discussion of social change and openness to the possibility of new social norms.
The internet has opened my daughters’ eyes to prejudice, hate, the dangers of smoking, the chemicals in diet soda and that the degradation of our environment by big corporations and households is taking our planet to the brink. They are informed.
My parents’ childhoods were the best because they saw families and communities pull together to survive tough times.
My childhood was the best because it was carefree and it was mine.
My children’s childhoods have been the best because the Information Highway arrived just in time to make them fully informed and in touch with reality beyond the microcosm of our little family and our little street. They are armed with facts and solutions for the raw and harsh realities of this life we’re living right now in the fragile planet we’re living on.
The future is in good hands.