I think I am part of the very first group of parents to rear children in the era of computer and online technology.
We had no rule books, no prior knowledge to tap into.
This modern world of technology and social media,
was very different to the world I knew as a child.
In our house “technology” was a radio, and a black and white television.
This television was a major delight to us as children.
It had quite a small screen, but an enormous back on it.
It was a black and white television with a button you twisted to turn it on.
Having turned it on you could have gone off to do your homework,
as it took quite some time to “heat up”.
In Ireland most of the country had just one or two channels.
Luckily I lived in Dublin, so we also had access to three British channels.
The sky of our day!
Having a television was one thing, getting a reception was another.
Many houses relied on rabbits ears.
Up on top of the television the rabbits ears were propped.
It was usually the job of the younger ones in the family,
to move the ears in all directions in order for the others to see the picture without snow.
This meant pulling the ears out…no, in… no,
lifting them up…. no, turning them round…no,
and as a last minute desperate measure, picking them and walking away from the TV,
whilst holding them at the queerest of angles.
Eventually when the shout went up, “perfect stay there”,
you would look around furiously for somewhere close to sit the ears on.
When in fact you did move to put them down another shout would go out,
“Ah for Gods sake, go back where you were the pictures gone”.
Watching television was a family event.
Everyone sat together and as there was only one TV,
everyone watched the same programme, which was often a matter of great debate.
After I married I moved to Cork.
Technology was still not featuring very strongly in my life.
In our house we owned just one television a small portable, but it was colour!
You can imagine the excitement when, after six years, we became the proud owners of a huge twenty one inch television, half the size of many peoples televisions today.
I remember the thrill that first day when we turned it on.
We couldn’t believe how huge it was, it was like we were sharing our sitting room with real people.
I had two small children at the time aged five and two.
They stood transfixed.
It was a Saturday afternoon and as we flicked through the channels,
we came to horse racing.
Definitely not something either of us would watch.
However my young son became fascinated with the horses.
He was right up at that television doing his best to pet them.
When it cut to the two racing pundits in the studio he was less than impressed,
so off he toddled behind the horses telling us “horsey all gone”.
As I laughed at his confusion, I saw it happen.
In slow motion.
The small boy leaned against the back of the television.
The television began to fall forward,
and with a heavy thump it landed on the floor screen first.
We picked it up, and switched it back on, to be met by a green screen!
I flicked channel to channel… all green.
Our brand new television, which we’d waited six years for, was broken.
Back to a tiny portable.
We did eventually replace the portable with a proper television,
and then joy of joy we bought a computer.
It was huge, with a dial up modem which failed most of the time.
I love learning new things and after I got over my fear of deleting everything, if I touched the wrong button,
I took to that beauty in a big way.
In time so too did my children.
Now a new challenge arrived. Children’s computer games, bebo (the first facebook) etc.
It was a fresh learning curve.
I remember one day my nine year old son arriving at top speed into the kitchen.
He seemed very distressed.
Initially he wouldn’t tell me what was wrong.
However after a little time spent sitting on my lap,
he began to cry.
“They’re all dead”, he said.
“Who?”, I asked.
“My family!” he wailed and began to sob loudly.
I was at a loss.
Then I remembered he’d been playing Sims on the computer.
A harmless game I’d assumed without really overly policing it.
Could that be the problem?
I brought him into the sitting room, but he froze at the door.
Whats wrong?” I asked.
“They died in the fire”, he wailed.
I turned on the computer screen and there I saw it.
Flames pouring out of the Sims house. The house his sister had lovingly created.
Something my son had done had caused the fire and he had been unable to get the family out.
Terrified he’d turned it off and ran, the line between reality and fiction very blurred in his head.
I eventually convinced him that it was just a silly game.
As I said those words I was thinking “Yikes a lesson learned by me. Is this really suitable?”.
So I decided I’d better check it out. That afternoon we sat down together,
a modern mom, spending time with my children, playing a computer game.
Sadly I was not really a Sims expert, and once again it ended in tragedy.
We had spent time creating a lovely new Sims family,
and then we went a bit mad and built a mansion with a swimming pool for them.
We put the mother and child into the pool to swim, delighted with ourselves.
Within a few minutes we could tell they were not happy.
After much debate we decided they needed to come out of the pool,
but in our Sims ignorance we had not installed a ladder!
Before my nine year old son, and my six year old daughters young eyes,
we watched them die!
The music changed and the grim reaper arrived.
I was horrified but transfixed.
I watched as he headed to a graveyard, RIP!
I shook myself out of my trance, and looked at my two little ones.
To say they were traumatised would trivialise their expressions.
It would appear that this was definitely not a suitable game for them.
“Oh dear, I said, trying to play it down, what a silly game” and I hurriedly turned off the computer.
We walked out of that room, in silence, like a family leaving a dead family member.
I wondered about the future therapy they may require and how I would explain it!
It was however a great lesson learned by myself.
Ignorance was no excuse. I should have known the ins and outs of that game.
I was fooled by the word “game”.
I realised for the first time how little I knew of this modern world,
and I determined to get to grips with it.
I can’t pretend I am fully up to speed. I do twitter, facebook and yes a blog.
But I am aware of how much I do not know, and that this online world is here to stay.
It’s not good enough nowadays to just know what your children are doing when they leave the house,
we need to know what they are doing at home too!
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25 thoughts on “We can’t ignore technology when we have children.”
Thanks for sharing. You are so very right. My kids did also grow up around same time. My daughter was 10 years old, before I would accept a computer in the house. And yes, we needed to learn so much that time. All were new, also for us.
Since having my kids I’ve realised how I need to say ahead regarding technology. I remember when I was a kid, my brothers and I knew how to work the VCR but my mum wouldn’t have a clue.. My kids know how to pause sky + when they need the bathroom. What’s really cute is they think the people on TV can see us! ;0)
Oh that’s brilliant! 🙂
I am lucky that I enjoy technology,but kids are so much faster and what’s in or out on the internet changes so quickly.
With my husband working in a major communications firm for 33 years, our two girls grew up with computers in our home. My husband and I, though, remember black-and-white televisions. When I was a child I remember my father and others being terribly afraid of computers and robots. 🙂
I suppose every generation laughs in some way at the previous one. I too remember many discussions about robots.
It scares me how much my son already knows about IT, and he has only just turned six. I am so behind the curve compared to my *peers* that I dread what will happen as he gets older and is immersed in the IT that he has grown up with, so will know it far easier than me.
He already plays online networked games (with Daddy’s supervision, and zero interaction with the other players), knows how to access Youtube for the old cartoons, and can’t get his head round the idea that TV only plays what *it* wants to play and no you can’t have Transformers on demand because it isn’t the BBC iPlayer…
Yes I think whatever about the teens and older children, the younger ones will be impossible to keep up with.Can’t help you but I do wish you luck, in a way you’d have to admire them too.
I just attended a talk on this same topic! You’re right, technology has progressed so much since our generation. I had to laugh at what happened to the Sims (sorry I know it’s a bit morbid) but it happened to me too!
We were only laughing here today remembering this day with the sims. It was awful at the time but inwardly I did laugh at it at the time. I’ve come a long way since thankfully.
I want to take all computers away from kids sometimes. No, pretty much all of the time!!!! There’s something to be said about childhood without computers. 🙂 Just a nice thought for a moment there.
Ah yes just like a day without a phone or email! Such relaxation.
The 14yo is continuously disappointed with my ability to stay ahead of the technology she likes to use. I hope it will stay that way, I can’t get over how many parents aren’t familiar with the tech their kids use and the dangers. Great post T.
Thanks Caitriona. I have a new technique. I put my eldest (22) in charge of policing. She is much harsher than I am, and the youngest has no problem her checking everything out. Win win if you ask me.
I’m a Milennial (or GenZ, I’ve lost track). Whatever, I’m 23 and we’ve always had computers, and since I was about 11 I’ve been ahead of my parents. They have had no hope of restricting what I could do, because they didn’t understand what I was doing. So much so that when I taught my mum to use Hotmail (about 5 years ago, maybe more), I had to explain that the way to send an email was to click the button with ‘send’ on it. I mock her for that often, but it really does encapsulate where we are with technology these days.
Someday we too will be laughed at by our children. I am trying to keep up but it sure is hard sometimes and then getting access to their phones etc opens up another can of worms.
oh tric, this is all so funny and true. it’s all trial and error and learning what not to do, like many things in the world of parenthood, but tech is so much trickier. great post and i know i’ll never be up to speed with my children, my grandies or my kindergarten.
I’m glad you got the humour in it. It is funny now to look back. I am really trying to keep up but thankfully I’ve older kids now who can help me.
this is my new favourite post of yours, tric 😆
a.) because it brought back memories of our own first black and white TV, and yes I was the one who had to balance on chairs or hang from the ceiling trying to position the aerial to find just the right spot for a decent picture (one without snow) while my dad fiddled with the vertical hold button to stop the picture scrolling up in a perpetual loop and
b.) it’s my wicked sense of humour, I know, but your description of drowning the mother and child in the pool in front of your horrified kids just cracked me up. Absolutely priceless moment 😆 😆
Oh great Duncan. We share the very same humour. I know at the time it was a horror story but I laugh so hard now remembering that day. My kids do too, now they are older. What really brought it back is one of my older ones is trying to get the youngest to buy Sims (with her money, you get the story).. She told her she hasn’t had a proper childhood without it so obviously she has lost this memory!
Wonderful story and I’m calling my daughter to make sure the grands do not play this game.
Glad you enjoyed it. I think they have changed this game somewhat and made it more suitable for younger children now.
Glad to here!!!!
I’m inspired by your blog and I’ve nominated you for the Sunshine Award. I hope you participate and you can find out all the rules here http://musicmovingforward.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/sunshine-award-nomination/. Comment back letting me know if you did it or not.
Thanks so much for the nomination. I really appreciate it. I’m sorry but I got so far behind on accepting awards I decided to no longer do them. I always loved getting them but I found it difficult to nominate blogs as I knew how much work they would have to do. Instead I do a regular post called “freshly impressed” where I highlight posts I have really enjoyed. This allows bloggers to go visit new blogs and those I’ve chosen don’t have any work to do.
I am so sorry and I hope you don’t mind. Again thanks so much for the nomination. I really do appreciate it and more particularly the fact that you read what I write.