Kids Say The Darndest Things…

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Guest blog by Jacqueline Beauchere, Director, Privacy, Accessibility & Online Safety, Trustworthy Computing Communications, Microsoft Corporation

We all know that old saying … And, as those kids move into their teen years, their remarks become that much more intelligent, insightful, and astute.  Never was this more apparent to me than at a roundtable discussion led by Microsoft in partnership with AARP, with a group of 18 American teenagers in New York City.

During lunch, we talked about their favorite online activities, Internet habits and practices, and how they’re connecting with adult family members using technology.  My key take-away: they don’t believe some massive, technological abyss of knowledge exists among the generations and, if a relatively small gap does persist, they don’t think it needs to be filled.

Still, adults are embracing technology and, to the extent they’re doing so to keep connected with kids, young people ask that we at least “do it right.” They articulated what I’d call two stages of online interaction:  “fundamentals” and “basics-plus.”

In the “fundamentals” category, they want adults to learn to use the PC and/or laptop correctly, as well as understand the essentials of navigating the web.  Parents and grandparents, they say, should send email “properly,” be authentic, and act and behave like adults online.  One teenage boy told us he scolded his 55-year-old mother when she was trying to be a little too hip in the digital world.

If adults are going to send text messages or move into the realm of social networking-”basics-plus”-young people have some additional requests.  For instance, they want us to know how to send private messages, be attuned to social etiquette, and they’d prefer that we keep it light and fun, just like they do.

“Adults seem to always have an agenda,” complained one savvy 17-year old. Others echoed that sentiment, noting that the older generation sends text messages of multiple paragraphs, as opposed to being short and to the point.

Microsoft, together with our online safety advocates, help young and older alike learn and appreciate the benefits and risks of life online, including how to communicate effectively.  We offer a wealth of resources at our Safety & Security Center.  And, you can follow us for other great tips on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Safer Internet Day (SID), an annual event dedicated to promoting responsible use of the Internet and mobile technology is February 7, and this year’s theme is “Connecting Generations.”  In conjunction with SID, Microsoft and AARP will release the results of joint related research.  But, in advance, why not take action early and, as a parent or grandparent, start a discussion within your family about how best to communicate using technology – taking care to address each family member’s needs and preferences.     After all, while the younger generation may have tech expertise, older adults possess the wisdom.

Then, if you’re still a little reticent about diving head first into the always-on digital lifestyle, as one pragmatic 16-year-old noted, “Everyone owns a phone; we can all just make a call.”