Missive from Michelle – LOL to teen’s screen dream

Parenting a teen requires both guts and brains.

Parenting a teen from the techno generation is the most interesting and frustrating challenge, especially for me, having emerged from my rock-on teen years to be quite decent and responsible, relieved my hearing is intact.

However, my free-spirited inner teen has not left me and I find myself faced with foreigners for family: the push-button children I call them, but they are also known as “digital natives” having been born with a computer mouse or gaming console in one hand and a cellphone in the other.

Oh, just so you are in the know, parents of digital natives are referred to as “digital immigrants” – this explains the domestic xenophobia prevailing in many homes where teens lope around.

This is all beautifully explained in an informative book, Tech Savvy Parenting by South African authors, Nikki Bush and Arthur Goldstuck.

Children, say the authors, have been digitally nurtured and are, therefore, wired for technology.

However, they are still flesh and blood (empty fridges and pantries are testament to this observation) and need human nurturing and face-to-face interactions, especially from their parents (tell those that utter unintelligible grunts while glued to their cellphones).

The bottom line is that we have to adapt to their world which is always on, with information and entertainment available instantly.

And the point is made quite strongly that the children’s digital lives, are in fact, preparing them for the future work place.

The book states that an estimated 60 per cent to 70 per cent of future jobs have not yet been invented.

These digital natives we find squatting in our homes, want instant gratification. They are autocratic and have more say in how the household income is spent, are demanding, take things for granted and are not too phased about consequences and the future.

An alien world for us who grew up playing tennis and cricket in the streets having better people skills as a result of negotiating terms and conditions with the neighbours’ children. If we wanted to go anywhere, we rode our bikes, or horror of horrors, we walked.

We used landlines, running up phone bills facing irate fathers giving lectures on the fact that money does not grow trees. (I knew this for a fact as I used to climb trees, quite a lot actually).

These landlines made intimate conversations with the latest love interest really tricky as parents hovered around tapping their watches.

So when the teen texted her birthday list of technology items, the combined cost of which is more than a small country’s annual budget, there is problem. And the problem is that “all” the other children have these astronomically expensive cellphone, iPods, laptops, iPhones and so on.

So what to do?

A sweet little reply text: Re: birthday list. OMG and LOL. Plus laughing face emoji.


Michelle Dennis

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