We’ve set them up
for a colossal collision.
It started with the car seats and helmets and knee pads –all
good ideas. But we didn’t stop there.
Good intentions mutated into helicopter parents with
drone strike capabilities. Those parents turned the be careful crossing the street message with which our own parents
might have sent us out, into over-the-top caveats of worst-case-scenario endings.
To protect their kids, they stepped in and took control.
From preschool to college, parents are holding on to the
responsibilities their offspring should have begun shouldering years ago. And
the kids are allowing it.
Why not? Parents do
get results. And for the cost of a little bit of freedom, these quasi-adults
get some pretty cushy safety nets, fully equipped with perks like free tuition,
rent, board, cell phones.
Add the millennials’ willingness to trade freedom for protection
to their social media addiction and you might guess where the collision occurs.
We’ve raised some lay-it-all-bare young adults with no problem giving up a
little independence for security. No wonder they’ve expressed zero outrage at
the NSA’s recent shenanigans snooping into the metadata of its own citizens. More
than half of the 18-29 year olds recently surveyed was okay with the government
looking at their phone records in terrorism investigations. While fewer support
the NSA spying on their online activity, they still don’t seem to care that
much about something they should.
Throw a little apathy into the mix and, well, they’re
Orwell’s 1984 was supposed to be science fiction. It was
supposed to be a can’t-happen-here, unimaginable dystopia. Hmmm.
A world always at war. A government that spies on its
citizenry. Rewrites of history that fit the party line. Technology as
None of it is Sci-Fi anymore.
And no one seems to care.
I mind that the parents are acquiescing to a bit of this this privacy invasion, but I kind of get it. But the kids? C’mon!
With nary a shoulder shrug, they are leaving data footprints
that span the globe and they’re being watched in ways Orwell could not have
imagined. From town squares with video cameras at every perch to the online likes
and tweets that offer bold breadcrumb paths that lead directly to their doors,
their privacy is being eroded faster than a Plum Island beach. But rather than
fortifying their foundations, they’re riding the waves, crashing the shore with
As one of those over-involved parents, I want to take hold
of their collective shoulders and give them a good shake. I want to light a
fire of caution signs, tread with care, watch out!
But I don’t know what they’ll hear, or if they’ll listen.
I love the welcome-to-college life course I teach at my little college. Not so
much for my ability to guide students into this next phase of their lives;
they’d get there without my help. But rather for the perspective it gives me on
who these young people are and what they believe and what they think is
important. The view is often scary dark.
On the other hand, on rare occasion, it’s enlightening.
With the carrot of extra-credit, I encouraged my students
to choose a Rock the Vote assembly for one of their mandatory campus
participation events. Only a few took me up on it. However, one went, got the
point, and actually registered to vote.
So I won’t scream at hordes of young people, or lecture
to the masses on why they should be standing up for themselves and saying no to
governmental (and parental) intrusion into their lives. I won’t take up
the banner they should be hoisting on their own. Rather, I’ll try to get to
know a few of them and talk to them –and listen.
And maybe as they teach me a little bit about who they
are, I can teach them why some of the identity they’re so willing to share deserves
to stay private.