Helen Popkin
By
msnbc.com
updated 7/26/2007 6:15:56 PM ET 2007-07-26T22:15:56

Back in my day, if we wanted to “text” our school chums, we spent three days loading type blocks into the Gutenberg Press. And by the time that message finally reached its destination via carrier pigeon, the recipient was a fortnight dead from The Consumption. And we didn’t need your so-called first person shooter games. By our 12th birthdays, we were already enlisted in Uncle Sam’s Army gunning for Charlie in the trenches of ‘Nam.

Okay, maybe my memory is a bit off on account of all that mercury in the hat factory where I worked 32 hours a day as a child laborer. But I see here in this story about two recently-published surveys by MTV Networks and Nickelodeon that you kids today take all your new-fangled technology for granted. We grups were born pre-broadband, but we still had it better than you. How’s that, what with all the hardships, you ask? Well, listen up as I ramble incessantly about the Golden Age of Childhood and how technology has ruined life for kids.

But first, more about these surveys, which involved 18,000 participants ages 8 to 24 in 16 countries including Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Mexico, United Kingdom and United States. Apparently, while the kids do the Internet and keep their cell phones handy, relatively few claim to “like technology.”

According to Andrew Davidson, vice president of MTV’s VBS International Insight unit (whatever that is), “Young people don’t see 'tech' as a separate entity — it’s an organic part of their lives.” Better oblivious than just too stupid to understand what they’re using … I guess.

Meanwhile, the report goes on to comfort parents concerned about their gadget-infested children. Turns out, the most popular activities for kids under 14 are still things like “watching TV, listening to music and being with friends.”

But wait! Mystery VP Davidson also says, “Talking to (young people) about the role of technology in their lifestyle would be like talking to kids in the 1980s about the role the park swing or the telephone played in their social lives – it’s invisible.” So how accurate can those answers be if, as Davidson seems to imply, using technology for kids is as natural and unconscious an activity as say breathing or passing gas?

Most likely these same kids are texting snarky comments about the latest brat featured on “My Super Sweet 16,” and downloading MP3s on their video iPods while hanging out with friends in cyberspace. Which is sad, really. What these kids should be doing is spending hours after school with their friends making crank phone calls to numbers randomly dialed or picked from the phone book. But they can’t — and not because they never heard of Prince Albert in a can. And that’s because of technology.

These same innovations making kids so savvy are used against them in the form of caller I.D. Outside the animated world of “The Simpsons,” kids have lost the adolescent rite of passage to call Moe Syzlak looking for “Amanda Hugandkiss.” The fact is, *67 is no longer effective in protecting your identity from the wrath of those on the receiving end of your hilarious stupidity.

Once upon a time you actually had to spend time in the fresh air and sunshine — or at least go to the mall — to encounter “stranger danger.” These days the perverts sneak straight into the house via a fake MySpace profile.

Speaking of perversions, porn (or “porno” as we called it) is now way too easy to get. “National Geographic” and the occasional pilfered “Playboy” eased kids gently into their sexuality. Now, easy access on the Internet introduces adolescents to all manner of freaky stuff they shouldn’t even consider until they’re 48 and in the icy grips of a dead marriage.

Oh I could go on and on about how we saw movies for free by sneaking in through the theater exit door, not bootlegging them off the Internet. And when we got caught, we were banned by the theater, not busted by the F.B.I. And thanks to “nanny cams,” young babysitters can’t even get a peek into the mysterious world of adulthood by rifling through their employer’s stuff.

What’s more, embarrassing teenage tomfoolery is never forgotten on account of the video record that pops up on YouTube before you get off the bus. Being fat and naked after Phys. Ed. always sucked, but thanks to cell phone cams, the whole school gets to see your Rubenesque undress — not just a handful of jerks in the locker room.

Still, there is some comfort. As long as technology continues to turn perfectly good vegetables into high fructose corn syrup, and kids continue to find the virtual world more engaging than riding their bikes ‘til dusk, most kids with portable photo equipment will be too blubbery to bother. Thanks technology!

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