Technology and the Youngest Generation

Sep 20, 2015

Conversations with my grandchildren about technology are occasionally a bit lowering, but more often than not are delightful and illuminating.

For example, when I tell my teenage grandkids that when their grandfather (Zaidy) and I went to college, there was exactly one computer on campus and it was the size of half my house, they look at me kind of squinty-eyed. Then they say something on the order of, ” Come on, Nana, you can’t be that old!”

But I give them a lot of leeway, because, after all, they are the ones who programmed my phone, taught me how to buy music from iTunes and download an app. And they are the ones who come running over like the cavalry to the rescue when my computer goes weird on me and I panic, afraid I’ve lost everything I ever put on it. So they get a pass.

Then there are my 8-10 year olds. I have explained to them that Zaidy actually had one of the original cell phones. It was the size of a shoebox, I tell them, and he carried it under his arm. They look at me with big, wide eyes. I go on to say that because Zaidy is a doctor, he used to carry a beeper. Before there were cell phones, whenever he would get paged, he would have to get off the freeway and go looking for a pay phone.

“What’s a pay phone?” they ask me. Okay, I know, I walked right into that one.

And then we come to the conversation I had recently with my 5-year-old granddaughter. She excitedly invited me into her room to see the very special item she had just acquired. It was some sort of plush pillow with an embedded electronic gizmo that allowed it to project a rainbow of colored lights on the ceiling.

I was suitably impressed and asked her where she got it. I was really curious because, like many a doting grandparent, I wanted to be up on the best places to buy the latest must-have paraphernalia. And I had no idea- had it come from a toy store, electronics store, bath and linen shop?

It turns out none of the above. “Oh, I got it on Amazon,” she breezily informed me.

“Oh really,” said I. “What’s Amazon?”

Now I have to stop here and say that had I asked this question of the teenagers, they would have laughed and said something like, “Yeah, right , Nana. I’ll send you the link to the so-and-so I really need….”

And had I asked the 8-10 year olds, the response would have have been an incredulous look. “Really, Nana, you don’t know? Where on earth have you BEEN?”

But this little 5-year-old smiled in all earnestness, happy to educate me. “Oh, it’s this thing you go to online,” she said. “You find what you want and then you push the buttons and it comes to your door.”

“Really?” I said. “It just comes to your door? That’s amazing! Ah, tell me, do you have to pay for it?”

“Well, of course, you pay for it. You’re buying it! That’s why you push the buttons,” she answered sagely.

“Oh, I see. So tell me, who exactly pays for it?” I inquired.

She cocked her head, narrowing her eyes in thought. “I have no idea,” she replied.

“Hmmm,” I murmured, and said nothing more.

Far be it from me to burst her little bubble. After all, she is still of an age to believe that Anna and Elsa, Mickey and Minnie all live at Disneyland. I wouldn’t want to disillusion her about the magic of Amazon.

And when you think about what life was like 100 years ago, even 30 years ago, well, you could make the case that in many ways we are living in a very magical age, indeed!