Tomorrow’s Adults- Products of our Content
He was two and in diapers when he was hooked on Jumpstart, phonics, math, and anything computers. He could operate a mouse better than his grandma- even at that age- and he embraced new cultures through virtual, cultural experiences that these CD-ROM’s offered.
Now, he’s eleven and a part of a future generation of computer superstars who will probably know everything there is to know about search engine optimization and social media by the time he’s twenty. He plays Angry Birds on his Dad’s I-PAD and Googles for secret levels to help him beat his friends at various Wii and app games. Cheater.
Beyond Words- A Visit Abroad
Recently, I took junior on a “maturing experience”. After navigating planes, trains, and taxis we finally arrived in downtown Sydney, Australia and dropped off bags in our hotel room. It was late, but we were hungry, so we walked down the street to order a burger at the corner Hungry Jacks, which is really Burger King in disguise. Long story short, a fight broke out while we were munching our french fries- right there in the Hungry Jacks! For real, this was not a Wii virtual experience. This was skin.
“What Did You See?”- Describing An Australian Fist Fight In Words
An Asian, twenty-something broke a bottle over a tattooed Caucasian’s, bald head and then the punching started. I stopped eating and looked up like a mother deer in the meadow and told my son (Bambi) to be aware. Within a second, the men pushed outward into the street, just as a bus was passing by. Horrified, I thought for sure one or both of them would be hit. The evening crowd pressed up against the restaurant windows to see what happened and blocked our view. I froze for a few seconds before grabbing my son’s hand and heading towards the front door.
The tattooed, twenty-something held himself in pain on the sidewalk while blood dripped from his head. The other guy was gone. The injured man’s ego was bruised and he was griping, in between writhing, to his buddy who was near-by. What surprised me is that the large crowd inside and outside stared, but kept eating or walking. Was anyone going to call for help? Still holding my son’s sweaty hand, I scurried back inside, grabbed wads of napkins and hustled back to place them on the man’s head to stop the bleeding. He continued holding the napkins and ignored me.
Then, turning to the crowd, I asked, “can someone call for help?” A young man handed me his phone. Baffled, I explained, “I have no idea how to call for help here. Do I dial 9-1-1?” He took it back and punched in “0-0-0”. Before long a couple policemen arrived. They questioned me about the incident, about the details I could recall. What exactly DID I see? Turns out, I couldn’t remember enough, so I was excused.
As the injured man berated his friends, who chose not to enter into his fight, I started to walk away, but then turned and offered, “take care of yourself.” Again, he stared at me, but without acknowledgment.
As a mother, I wondered what he held in his past that led him to these actions on this night and why, of all the places, was I here with my son in this moment? What words had the young man mumbled to the other guy before the punching began? People want to see actions beyond empty words, but the crux is that young people want to matter in this world.
My English teacher used to say, “Show me. Don’t tell me.” The same is true with the use of “show-me” words when we share descriptive stories. Words need to illustrate the action.
Teachable Moments Framed in Words
With my arm around my son, we walked in silence for a few minutes before I began downloading random thoughts. “First”, I said, “what Mommy just did may not have been the best idea…” I paused and looked over at him to make sure he’d digested the admission. “It might have been smarter to go out the back door. These men could have had knives or guns. But, when I saw that young man bleeding with no one helping him, the mother in me took over. I couldn’t sit by and do nothing.”
He was listening, so I continued. “Also, avoid fighting. What a road to no where. Staying out late at night often leads to this kind of trouble! In the future, when you’re a teenager, you may want to stay out late. Remember why Mom will want you home.” He nodded his head in agreement. Ask me in a few years if this experience combined with the power of a mini-lecture actually made a difference.
An Australian Pen Pal – The Exchange of Words
There were other moments on our trip that warmed me. While at the airport waiting during a delay, I started a conversation with an Australian family. Their twelve-year-old daughter and my son were bored, so I suggested that they play Monopoly together on my son’s Kindle. Before our eyes, a friendship was born. They exchanged emails and have been sending these too cute questions back and forth ever since. “What kind of tests do you have to take in school? We have NAPLAN.” or “We take ISTEP. Can you send a picture of your home?” “Hey, I see that there is flooding in America. Is your home okay?”
According to page 202 of Development and the Next Generation, “young people around the world are more able to access information and connect to ideas and people outside their countries…Surveys for this Report show youth to be more likely than 25- 50-year-olds to communicate with people in other countries.” The global exchange of information for children of this generation has never been easier.
Eternal Words – Our Arrival Home
After a trip filled with beautiful people and memories, we arrived home to discover that our neighbor, a 19-year-old who’d babysat my son a couple summers before, had passed away from a sudden onset of cancer. What a shock.
Again, with my son in tow, when I heard the news, I sought out the teen’s mother. We stood in her doorway and talked- cried. Can words ease a mother’s loss? I picked up a card and wrote a couple personal notes for the family that week. Writing helps us process and frame our feelings.
We recalled all of the positive character traits of this young man. He was responsible, organized, brilliantly talented in stage craft, and embracing a bright future at college. He’d been active on Facebook and inspired many friends with his pictures, sayings, and insights through the years. He’d given much more to the human spirit and good in his 19 years than some people triple his age. On his Facebook page he left the quote, “Time lost is never regained.” This generation can even leave memories – timeless content on Facebook.
Words that Destroy
My son was 18 months old on September 11, 2001. We turned off the television in our home, but I always felt bad for the school-aged children who could not escape the images and constant coverage. Those youngsters had to process the drama until it became a part of their fabric.
With Bin Laden’s recent death came many conversations in our home about killing and when it’s right verses wrong. Unfortunately, Bin Laden’s actions and words advanced a cause that gave him access to a mansion while the world fought (and at this time continues fighting). We feel sad for his children and ALL the children of the world who suffered on 9-11.
Ghandi once said that “an eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth leaves one toothless.” Hopeful words have the potential to reconstruct the beginning of a smile. The power of effective content can chart a new course.
Today’s Children Are Content & Technology Specialists
When writers articulate the head and heart such that their content steers readers on a path (hopefully positive) that wouldn’t have been without the expression, then they are uplifting the craft. Today’s children- tomorrow’s leaders- are digesting it. They’re savvy in the medium and young experts in the value of what rises to the top of their online searches.
Craft content with words and videos that show- not tell how to process life. Comfort losses and challenge deceptive or destructive content. The ideas, websites, and pieces that matter hold sweaty hands and open up the future to possibilities and hopeful dreams through honest conversations. These kids are watching, reading, and interacting with us and each other through multiple mediums. By the time they’re adults, they’ll be connoisseurs of value and keenly sensitive to the empty, dull, meaningless, and deceitful within a click.