Toby will become a teenager in 2026 and Gabe will join him in teenager-dom in 2028. For someone who was born in the 1970s the 2020s feels like it is properly in ‘the future’. Do you ever wonder what life will be like for your kids when they’re older? I wonder if we’ll see the same enormous changes in the next 20 years as we’ve seen in the last 20?
I reckon life for me as a teenager was definitely much easier than it will be for my boys. Of course we had all the usual teenage dramas; there was gossip, people talked about each other, people were bullied (me included) but when the school day was over you went home and that was it until the next day.
In our world now, everyone is connected on social media and the pressure that puts on teenagers is immense. As a secondary school teacher I have seen how all-encompassing social media can become for today’s teenagers – will it be the same in another 10 years when my boys are teenagers? How different is life for teenagers now when every moment of every day seems to be photographed and captioned and shared for all the world to see.
And of course, social media isn’t the only change. We now live in a world where entertainment is available on demand, whenever and wherever you want it. Toby and Gabe, at 4 and 2 years old, are already well acquainted with Netflix, Amazon Prime and iPlayer. They know TV programmes can be recorded at the touch of a button, they can be paused, rewound, watched over and over again. They will never know the frustration of having to wait a week for the next episode of your favourite TV show and then missing it because you were late home from school that day, or scrabbling around for a blank tape so you could record your favourite film when it was on telly – and always missing the beginning of everything because you had to wait for the tape to rewind before you could record on it. They will never know what it was like to only have three TV channels, for there genuinely not being anything on that you wanted to watch, what it was like to actually be bored and find your own entertainment.
But it’s not just TV. Toby and Gabe will never know what it is like not to have the internet in your pocket, or even to know what it was like not to have the internet at all. When we couldn’t find out an immediate answer to any question we might have – when you had to go to the school library and hope that the information you were looking for was in one of the many volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. When researching a school project on more environmentally cars meant getting your mum to take you to a car show room to pick up some new car brochures rather than typing a question into Google, or even asking Siri or Alexa to find the answer for you.
They’ll probably never need to look at a paper map and plan a route, deciding which way will be quickest, looking for potential short cuts. Turn the map round in your hands so it’s facing the right way (or is that just me?). They will grow up in a world of Sat Nav, and mobile phones that always know where you are. Perhaps by the time they are old enough to drive we will have perfected self-driving cars and all they will need to do is get in and tell the car where they want to go.
I find it fascinating to think of all the changes that have happened in my lifetime, in my parents’ lifetimes, in my grandparents’ lifetimes… My maternal grandma was born in 1910. She is no longer with us but she lived until 2004 – to think that she was born before the First World War, before cars were commonplace, before every home had electricity, when most people didn’t even have a toilet in the house. My grandma started work in a mill at 14 years old, for her there was no ‘teenager’ – she went from being a child to an adult, with no teenage in between.
And then my mum, who was born in during the Second World War, in a time of rationing and gas masks and not knowing if your dad was ever going to come home. My mum, who was one of the first ‘teenagers’ in the 1950s, who got in trouble at school because she’d been seen in the park talking to a boy, and not wearing her hat and gloves! My mum, who now lives in a house which gets nearly all its electricity from solar panels, who drives and electric car, and who can regularly be seen checking Facebook on her iPad, or Facetiming her grandkids while on a campsite in France!
If the world has changed so much in the last 100 years, what on earth are the next 100 years going to be like? I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to find out!
Oh, and if I ever want to know what I’m going to look like when I’m older then I just need to look at this picture… This is me, my grandma and my mum in May 2000 on my grandma’s 90th birthday. I was (almost) 22, and my mum would have been 58. I think you can see the family resemblance, don’t you?