September 29, 2015

Parental Advisory: Technological Content

Our parents have given us everything; from manners to mannerisms. In fact, they ruled the roost until the Age of Technology dawned and the roles were rapidly reversed. When it comes to adapting to a world run by devices, we have become the primary caregivers. Just as they helped us with counting apples, now we help them to tackle their Apple products.

It was a slow introduction into the 21st century as many parents attempted to stem the flow of gadgets into the household. I saw a broken man the day Papa Bear was forced to obtain an Android for work purposes. Why would they inflict a touch screen upon him? What harm did buttons ever do? Cue an onslaught of accidental phone calls and indecipherable text messages. I can only hope AutoCorrect is to blame for some disastrous errors.

As surly teenagers, we were reluctant to help. We groaned when we were forced to explain the mechanics of a DVD player. We rolled our eyes when they decided to acquire a cordless phone. We refused to acknowledge the complexity of an iPod (a more difficult concept than the Walkman whose fatal flaw as a walking companion was that it skipped a beat every step you take.) ‘And how could you fit all the CDs in there?!’ they wondered.

They call your name urgently as if the house is on fire. The problem? A screen filled with useless apps when ‘all they want the phone for is calls and texts! Not that auld YouTube!’ When their desired background was accomplished with a sweep of a fingertip, they looked at me with a mixture of admiration and horror. How have I performed such sorcery? Is their daughter a magician?

As modern offspring, we like to think we are ahead of the pack and perhaps secretly we fear their advancement to our level of technological understanding. We have been sitting smugly atop our high horses for some time now; is it possible that we relish this position of power over our one-time prison guards?

This theory might explain my own shock at the turning of the tide in favour of technology. Are our parents slowly embracing the gadget revolution? The mouse-bangingly slow PC has been updated to a flashy tablet. The blocky Nokia has evolved into a sleek Lumia version. Netflix will soon replace the Christmas boxsets.

Under the guise of joining to keep up with emigrant siblings, Facebook has become the playground for parents whose zealous online activity teases you with countless notifications and a false surge of popularity. And from a woman who could not turn on a computer, I now receive updates on a daily basis from Mama Bear on WhatsApp. Last week she enquired if I had seen the latest viral video by Cian Twomey. (I hadn’t.)

Once upon a time, you would hear an elderly train passenger loudly listening to her voicemails on speaker phone and asking for your assistance with predictive text. These days, they are more likely to screenshot Instagram pictures while enjoying the new Snapchat features. On an iPhone 6. What a time to be alive.