Think of the Children

Welcome to 2008 folks and good luck to you in the year ahead.

whatley stork

I don’t know about you but, for some reason, 2008 seems to hold an awful lot of potential for me. There’s a definite air of excitement about the immediate future as we, as an industry… nay, as a race! …continue to carve out this new digital/mobile revolution.

I would argue that in this ever-changing landscape it is so easy to forget exactly how far we’ve come in these few short years…

But what I want to talk about now however, is not where we’ve been… but where we are going, and what lies ahead for those that will take up the reigns in the future.

So take a moment, indulge me if you will, and think of the children.

MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and of course their mobile counter-parts, are all tools that we take for granted…

‘Upload that, tag me in this… Add me, add me, ADD ME!’

Our entire lives are now, slowly but surely, online… and will remain so should we so wish, forever.

(Apocalyptic terminator-esque wars withstanding)

Our kin will be able to find and see everything… Family trees (post early 21st century) will be easier to seek out…

Finding out who Mummy used to date before she met Daddy will be there, right there, in the depths of your Mum’s mini-feed!

So, what of our children?

Growing up and having such easy access to their parent’s loves, lives, histories, past relationships, photos, activities…

It kinda puts the whole ‘Hey Ma! What did you do in the war?!’ question on its head. More like: ‘Hey Ma, why didn’t you keep a blog?’

Home videos, once the luxury of a rich relative, are now ubiquitous with the advent of the camera phone: I mean; a phone without a camera? An absurd thought… You’ve all got them. I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a camera on their phone, (by all means, let me know if you are one of these people!).

Of whom of you there that have children already, how many of them have mobile phones? What would you say is the acceptable age of getting ‘my first phone’?

(There’s got to be a Fisher Price toy in there somewhere)

Will our children be on Facebook? Doubtful say some – ‘Surely facebook won’t be cool enough and the kids of tomorrow will be using the next big thing’ is something that has been said to me before. Well – irrespective of your POV on that question…

Some parents are already setting up new blog accounts for their newborns. They’re chronicling everything from the first photo in the womb to little one’s first steps and first words.

How will our children cope with this new way of keeping personal history?

Answer: They just WILL.

Having never known any different…

However, one does wonder, in the years to come when the newborns of the late noughties find their way into school, will a new elite group be the rage in the playground? The Facebook Kids — whose parents embraced this new digital wave completely, and used it to track the entirety of their youngling’s lives to date…

And when the time comes, will these ‘Blog-Babies’ be given the logins to their blog like some twisted digital version of the keys to their first car? Or the first $100 from their lifelong trust fund? Of course, but only when they come of age, so to speak.

Could the parents become precious over this personal history?

‘My child ruined/deleted his blog’ is a Jerry Springer/Jeremy Kyle show waiting to happen…

So why am I talking about this here? Where’s the mobile angle?

These digital worlds are converging. We all know it. We can all see it. I’d say you’re all intelligent people; people with something to say.

So tell me dear reader, I know this is a lot to think over, but I am genuinely interested…

What are your thoughts?

For me the adventure is amazing, but it’s the destination which holds such interest.


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Author: James Whatley

Chief Strategy Officer in adland. I got ❤️ for writing, gaming, and figuring stuff out. I'm @whatleydude pretty much everywhere that matters. Nice to meet you x

7 thoughts on “Think of the Children”

  1. Imagining this information in the context of our own childhood years might be unsettling for some, perhaps even scary for a few. Future kids will grow up in the context of formidable information saturation and will likely be too busy chronicling their own developing lives to bother with the past – much like generations before them. Youth curious enought to look at history to make sense of their world might actually benefit from the experience – yeah, even our occasional documented silliness.

  2. This thinking always leads me to think of the changing shape of data protection. An area which is likely to provoke a yawn – if not already – is now at the beginning of a period of intense change. The up and coming digital children proactively share everything about their lives in order to make new friends/acquaintances, find things out, work out where to go. They do not squirm when building a facebook page as the older generation do – is that a work thing or a social thing? do I want people to know that? – the legal challenge here must be to allow this to happen and to understand to what extent this new audience wants protection rather than simply try and patrol the existing boundaries.

  3. There is also a cultural challenge to overcome… These facebook babies and myspace kids are our future teachers, GPs, business and political leaders. The chances are that they will have exposed their past themselves before they get famous or to the top of their profession. So what’s my point?

    Currently, the way recruitment works is that employers want folks with a spotless past, no skeletons in the cupboard and someone who can ‘stand for their brand’. Except that those skeletons that could previously be hidden from public view, are now very public and very searchable. Our future leaders have already exposed themselves with their embarassing stories of nights of excess and drug-fuelled parties on social networking sites. Their views on life, which over time will no doubt change, are there in black and white.

    So how is Joe Public going to feel about this? Will we still expect our future leaders to be blemish free or will we (as in the older generation) be accepting of this change? Will the recruiters of the future be tolerant to this kind of background if the candidate can do the job properly. Will the lines between public and private life be blurred? And in turn, how will all this affect employment and drug legislation in the future?

    I don’t have the answers, but I think about this *a lot* and in fact, I wrote about it last year too

    Thanks for thinking about it too!

  4. @Scott – You raise a good point regarding the data protection stuff.

    This point was raised at the Future of Mobile conference back in November.

    Someone said something along the lines of:

    “Given the applications/functionality of today’s phones, how easy would it be to create a program that would read my calendar and my GPS to let party X know where I am, what I’m doing and more importantly, where my kids are and what time they finish school etc…”

    I’m not into scaremongering – not by a long shot (I’ll leave that to the Daily Mail) – but yes, Data Protection *is* changing.. and it’ll be next generation that defines it.

  5. With you there James, and Ms Kitten.

    The current rather emabrassing rush to Facebook et al by the 20-30’s has been done in a desperate self-fulfillment frenzy of – frankly – sadness. I have close friends who just split up after 10 years of marriage. They are both furiously Facebooking their new single lives…sadly, their nearly-teenage children can follow along online. WTF prompts people to do this? There’s reams of dissertation in there.

    I’ve always held that you only have ~5 true friends at any one stage of your life. These are people who will pick you up drunk & dribbling at 3am, clean you up and put you to bed. And you’d do the same for them.

    The idea that Facebook gets you more ‘friends’ is just laughable. And sad.

    For my money, Facebook and other more fringe apps like Kyte still don’t offer the level of protection & configurability to make me a confident sharer of personal info. And worse for Facebook, there’s the ominous shadow of how exactly they are using your info to help out advertisers etc. No wonder Newscorp are interested.

    I’d love to feel happy & safe sharing our family lifestream online/mobile with the small handful of close friends and relatives who would be genuinely interested. But none of the current services/apps out there give me the confidence.



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