In an effort to make us feel particularly melancholy and nostalgic, CBS Moneywatch released their list of 15 things kids today will not get the opportunity to do, based on technology moving forward and familiar activities of the 80’s and 90’s falling by the wayside; everything from listening to the tat-tat-tat of a typewriter to browsing a video store. But to me, specific technology is less important to their list of lost childhood activities than the sensory experience, the thought processes, and the creative explorations that their post implies are becoming extinct.
So before you grieve these rites of passage, let me assure you that I don’t believe many of their list items represent experiences lost.
Please allow me to present a corresponding list of activities my kids will absolutely still get to do, despite the march of progress.
- Learn to love photography. The Moneywatch post laments the loss of film development for kids and the anticipation of getting your photos back. What I remember was taking a two week vacation with a single roll of 24 exposures allotted and having to conserve photographs like a miser. In our day, that meant not capturing so many wonderful views and moments with family and friends because I was out of film or hadn’t planned on taking a photo in the moment. Kids today can be taught image composition with feedback in real time.
- Curate music. Sure, the mix tape is no longer part of our culture. But the mix is far from dead. The mix tape was about curating your music collection to find the perfect set of songs to set a mood or express an emotion. Whether via iTunes, or Rdio, or Spotify, or any number of music streaming options, being able to find the perfect set of songs in the perfect order to create the soundtrack of their youth is totally an activity kids continue to be able to enjoy.
- Write stories. Sure typewriters no longer clickety-clack in every household in 2015, but guess what? They didn’t clickety-clack in my childhood home either. Today whether on tablets or using a a technological dinosaur like a desktop computer, kids can still put words together on a page and tell amazing stories. Better yet, with access to appropriate forums on the Internet, today they can find an audience.
- Learn film appreciation. Again, the video rental store has closed down, but access to a huge movie collection and the age old question, “What do you feel like watching tonight?” live on through Netflix and other streaming services. And if you’re pining for the 24-year-old behind the counter who has seen everything and can give you 27 recommendations, never fear. The Internet is littered with them.
- Look at a photo album. There is a simple counter argument here that says that iPhoto collections are called “albums” and therefore kids are still looking at photo albums. But for our family, most of our iPhoto collections again are missing the curation that made photo albums of the past so great to go through. So when we have a special vacation to look back on, or a special time to remember in our children’s lives, we’re still having albums made. They just happen to be printed photo books now instead of sticky pages to host photo prints. And beyond that, sharing our own family history with our kids is still important. And guess what, if you want to see what mommy and daddy looked like before 1997, you’ll have to go through our photo albums to find out.
- Take their music with them. Sure, the Sony Walkman is no longer a relevant piece of technology, but the experience of walking down the street to your own soundtrack hasn’t left by any means. iPod or iPhone, the comfort and familiarity of the songs we love can make any strange location feel familiar and provide an escape no matter where you end up. I don’t see this experience as a thing of our past.
For good measure, I’ll give you two other remnants of a bygone era that I intend to share with my kids.
- Record their own radio programs. Whether it’s an old cassette player with a single blank tape they wear through or an iPad app we find that lets them get creative, record their own voices, dub in music and sound effects and just play with sound and audio recording, I know this was an activity that both Joy and I shared with our siblings growing up and that no child of today needs to live without.
- Listen to stories being told. The B-side to recording your own stories is to listen to good stories well told. The days of “The Shadow” and “The Green Hornet” as prime time radio dramas were long gone when we grew up, but listening to Vancouver Canucks play-by-play and being transported into the arena for the final seconds of a great comeback got my heart pounding. So whether it’s a sports broadcast or an old radio program that lets their imagination immerse them in a storyteller’s world, listening to a story and visualizing it for themselves is something I want to share with my kids.
And just in case the Moneywatch folks have it right, and holding on to old technology is the only way to provide kids these nostalgic experiences, I’ve done that too.