As I write this, you’re both still small. You’re only 18 months and 3 years old, and yet, both of you can work the tablet better than I can. Yours is a generation that will grow up surrounded by electronic everything.
When I was little, we kids didn’t have apps to keep us entertained. Somehow we made it without cell phones and Wi-Fi access. We had phones at home that were attached to the wall with cords. If we needed to call someone and weren’t home, we used ancient devices called “pay phones.”
There was no Google or Siri to answer every question that popped into our heads. If we wanted to learn about something, we had to research it at the library. We used card catalogs and encyclopedias and had to work to find the answers.
We didn’t have GPS. If we went somewhere, we’d have to ask for directions or use a giant paper map that was impossible to fold back together.
Who knows what technology will look like by the time you read this. Maybe you’ll be too busy suppressing the robot uprising to get around to reading this letter at all. But for whatever it’s worth, here are some words of advice about growing up in a world of instant access:
Know when to unplug. There will be plenty of time for phones, video games, tablets and television, but everything is better in moderation. Besides, you’re not going to look back and remember your favorite post on social media or how many people “liked” it. Invest in making memories that matter.
Try to be social. Kids these days all have smartphones. I’ve seen teenagers hang out in groups together, actively ignoring each other while staring down at their phones. It’s important to have real conversations and practice making eye contact with other human beings.
Manners matter. Treat others how you’d like to be treated. A smile and a positive attitude go a long way. Say “please” and “thank you.” Be respectful and kind.
Anonymity is never an excuse for anything. People say all kinds of ugly things online. It’s easier to say hurtful things from behind a screen than to say them to someone’s face. A good rule of thumb is not to act like an asshole, whether it’s in person or online.
Be your own advocate. Stay away from the toxic underbelly of the Internet that is the comments section. Don’t engage or encourage the negativity of others. While it’s good to stand up for yourself and what you believe, it’s also important to gauge which battles are worth fighting.
Be smart and safe. Make choices that will benefit you in the long run. Be mindful of what you share online and don’t take nude photos of yourself because, frankly, you never know where they’ll end up.
Read books, preferably the kind made of paper if they still exist in another decade. Read even when you don’t want to read. Read until you find that book that ignites your passion for literature; you’ll know it when you find it. Then keep reading and never letting that flame burn out.
Learn to write well. Communication these days is filled with acronyms and emojis, but words can be powerful tools when used effectively. Spelling, grammar and vocabulary are all things that matter if you want to be taken seriously. And, for the love of all that is good, don’t write “u” in place of “you” anywhere outside of a text message.
Find the things that make life special for you. Nurture your creativity. Make time for music and art. Make friends who support you, inspire you, and make you laugh.
Make time for adventures. Get outdoors as much as you can. Don’t settle for just looking at pictures of places; go see them for yourself. Get dirty, feel the earth below your feet, and let yourself feel small in comparison to it all.
These days you can get all the answers you want at the touch of a button, but I hope that doesn’t dull your curiosity about life. Learn what you can through firsthand experiences and be fully present in those moments. With any luck, they’ll have invented teleportation or flying cars by now so you can see even more of what the world has to offer.