Gen Z, iGen, Boomlets, whatever you want to call them you know who they are, and they know exactly who they are. In this house, they’re my children. Eighteen and fifteen, older girl, younger boy, and at this point in our lives, they’re teaching me far more than I teach them. Because what they’re good at, I mean, essentially expert, is technology.
Whenever I come across something that I learn in terms of social media, I ask them about and the inevitable answer is, “Oh, yeah, I’ve been doing that.” Or, “Yeah, I can see how that would be helpful for older people.”
They are fluent in the language of the future, and I often need them as my interpreter. I’ve turned into my parents who relied on me to set the clock on our family VCR. But now the kids live and breathe in a virtual world that just layers into our physical one.
As a parent, of course, this concerns me. But if I ever needed a real-life example of why this would be important to their futures, the past twelve months have been it. Their school has been operating on a hybrid model, in school two days a week with very limited interaction with their peers.
So being the highly adaptable creatures they are, the kids naturally turned to the social connections they have through media. Caroline Knorr on NationalGeographic.com last December 20th said that Minecraft, a game that both of my children spend time on, saw a 90% increase in players joining groups as opposed to playing solo between February and July of 2020.
I had thought Minecraft was a game they were outgrowing, but apparently the social and collaborative nature of the game was particularly soothing and engaging to the kids in an otherwise isolating time. They could come together building and sharing worlds that they have control over, clearly something they were missing in their day to day lives.
Even the American Academy of Pediatricians advises using media “for social connection: Social distancing can be isolating. If kids are missing their school friends or other family, try video chats or social media to stay in touch.”
As the days lingered on while we were all inside, I could hear my son yelling and laughing with his friends, and when I looked over my daughter’s shoulder I saw an elaborate structure she had meticulously decorated right next door to other buildings made by her friends in a collaborative virtual village.
I don’t have to go on about the worries of too much screen time most parents have always had, or even in this moment think about the impact being shut in for so long is having on our collective social skills. Right now, I can be grateful that my kids have command of and are using effectively some pretty incredible tools that are helping them to weather these challenging times.