I remember my mother bemoaning the fact that my sister took a psychology course at college and announced that all her problems were due to the dysfunctional way she was brought up. “Sure, blame everything on me, don’t take any responsiblity for your own actions,” she grizzled. I thought to myself, “Hmmm, it’s all someone else’s fault – I’ve got to check out this caper!” When I went to university I minored in psychology so I could examine this theory in more detail. Sure enough, everyone from Freud on down had been blaming adult issues on mothers. It was a great way of excusing everything from relationship breakdowns to career frustrations over the next several years. Finally, while co-writing a book with a psychologist about men’s issues, we were talking about mothers and childhood and I had this great epiphany as the psychologist turned to me and said, “Ray, your mother is who she is, and she did the best she knew how to do. At your age, you need to start taking responsbility for your own actions!”
I’d like to say I completely changed my life that day, became a perfect husband, father and son and my career blossomed as I released my mother from her role as child-thwarter. Yeah, pull the other one… let’s just say I became more self-aware and have led a life with a bit more balance since then.
Anyway, to pull this huge digression from the topic of this blog back to the business at hand, I was reminded of my early studies in psychology by a new book about the Net Generation by futurist Don Tapscott, Grown Up Digital. A sequel to Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation, Tapscott studies the generation of children who have grown up not knowing anything other than the Internet. While media reports decry the kids of today, accusing them of being unfit (well, that one is probably true) and brain dead through playing video games and Facebooking instead of dealing face to face with real people, Tapscott says that, in fact, “Net Geners” are, as he told a reporter for The Economist, the “smartest generation ever”. He says the experience of parents who grew up watching television is misleading when it comes to judging the 20,000 hours on the internet and 10,000 hours playing video games already spent by a typical 20-year-old today. “The Net Generation is in many ways the antithesis of the TV generation,” he argues. One-way broadcasting via television created passive couch potatoes, whereas the net is interactive, and, he says, stimulates and improves the brain.
The book sounds fascinating and I think I’ll buy a copy, if for no other reason than to get some insight into how my kids’ brains work. But I can’t believe how things have come around; now, any misunderstanding of my children and their contemporaries is being blamed on that generation of people who grew up frying their brains through too much television. So again, it is the parents’ fault. Wait a minute, who was it that let me watch too much “Gilligan’s Island”, “Get Smart” and “Lost in Space” when I was a lad?…