15 November 2015
I was interviewed on BBC radio 5 this week and one of the others being interviewed was a young man who had got involved with Hacking.
He’d started getting involved with gaming online and joined the community of other online gammers. The challenge was to knock out the oppositions internet connection so his team could win the game. He then progressed to hacking being welcomed into the hacking community after demonstrating he had a skill for it hacking into the CIA and NASA.
It dawned on me “Are we doing enough to engage kids these days?” Do we let our kids sit in their rooms and drift off to another world amusing themselves. The answer is undoubtedly “yes” but what’s the answer?
When I was growing up, the world was a great deal safer. You could go off cycling and walk to a park or a friends house. This in itself gave you a sense of responsibility, whereas nowadays everyone is too frightened to let their children out of their sight. Quite rightly so with the way the world is deteriorating, but nevertheless it’s a change for the worse.
So where do kids get to exercise their independence in today’s society? Freedom is an absolute necessary part of growing up. Responsibility is something children have to experience if they are to develop.
The Internet is a gateway to freedom. It gives you access to travel in any direction, it does not restrict you from learning, it gives you a set of keys to unlock a new world of knowledge.
Growing up with the Internet now is vastly different, but I cant help thinking, I wouldn’t have swapped my upbringing for the world. A black and white TV with restrictions on when we could watch it, not just set by parents but also as there were only a few channels and some of those only operated a few hours a day! A bike, rugby ball and a phone at the end of the hallway that you had to ask permission to use.
Fast forward back to today’s reality and what do you have. Well my kids have iPhones, iPads, no TVs in the bedroom, but they have access to every program on demand from the TV in the lounge and kitchen with games, music, you literally don’t have to leave your bedroom or arm chair to lose yourself in another world.
But what’s the answer and which era was better?
There’s good and bad from both eras and I wonder if a blend of both is the best answer. I am not a man who subscribes to “moderation” normally, I am an “all in, head first” sort of person, but I do believe moderation here is the answer.
Mainly to free up time, but then what do you do with it?
This is where I don’t believe we are supporting the next generation of youngsters coming through anything like enough.
A big part of growing up in North Wales was linked to sport. Rugby, cycling, running all played a big part.
But most sports require parental sacrifice and I wonder if that has changed too. With adults glued to phones as much as the kids, who has the time?
I noticed on a trip recently just how much the world had changed in 4 years from the last time visited the same place.
4 years ago people were sat around talking, cracking jokes and making friends. Now, looking around, everyone was on their phones, and whilst still having conversations, they were only partially present!
I have done it myself. With all the apps and email pushing information to our phones, suddenly we are slaves to technology. Whilst you might like to think you are completely in control, somehow I think you might be kidding yourself.
We are all working harder and yes we might be working smarter too, but the worry is when are we switching off?
So what is the answer? You can’t expect kids to turn out better and smarter and more dynamic than our generation unless we commit to engaging with them and creating them a world where it is still cool to build a tree house, or a boat out of cardboard boxes! We have to allocate time to the next generation and make sure we are giving them games and challenges which stimulate them. They are super smart, incredibly well informed, much more than us older folk were when we were growing up, but they are still kids and they need the love, care and direction. Kids need to belong and that’s possibly where we as a society is failing them.
Governments talk about creating a world that is safer to live in where everyone who wants to work can get a job, but it all starts with education and whilst that continues to deteriorate its going to be left to us to make the difference.
I don’t see skateboard parks being built, community centres (unless by the business community) and the reason is the young people don’t have a voice. They are too far removed from the politicians making decisions.
Consequently the gap between underprivileged kids and working adults is bigger than its ever been.
I can’t help thinking with the horrific events of the weekend in Paris that the people and children recruited to fight the ISIS cause were looking for a group where they could belong.
If no one is listening when kids reach out and need stimulation, its very easy for the wrong people to step in and manipulate them.
What’s the answer?
I think we have to take ownership as a community. I think businesses have the biggest responsibility and opportunity to help.
A well run business full of like minded people is a fun and stimulating place to hang out.
If people want to “belong” which I firmly believe is the case, create communities and ensure we are there for people long before they go off the rails.
Eventually I’d like to believe that government would listen, but it will be a decade away before we see the fruits of any changes. So in the meantime, see what you can do to stimulate and inspire your own kids or the kids at a local community centre. If you have a talent, put it to good use and make a difference.
Feeling like you belong to a group of likeminded individuals is a fundamental part of our human needs. So its up to us to create positive groups where people can enjoy themselves and inspire others.
Society doesn’t have to be worlds apart. We are actually in this together and we are not on this wonderful planet for very long.
What can you do to make a difference this Christmas?
Make it a great one.
Have a great week