Recently, my four-year-old became quite confused and irate with me when I refused to fast forward through the commercials of his favorite show. I tried to explain to him that not all television shows are recorded and that, unfortunately, in this instance he would be forced to suffer through a commercial break or two.
That’s when I realized the concept of live television was completely lost on my son. He is a child who has only known a world with DVR and instant streaming. I resisted the urge to tell him about the television of my youth: the dial you got up to turn, only a handful of channels to choose from, and a size that took up a good portion of our living room instead of hanging nicely on the wall.
This got me thinking about the differences in our childhoods, the advances in technology, and the things I learned that have since been rendered obsolete. I’ve put together a list of the top 15 things we experienced as children that our children will not.
1. Cursive Writing
When we were in elementary school, we were given workbooks to help us practice our cursive writing over and over and over again. Writing in script used to be how we communicated hand-written notes or formal letters. Now it’s a font called Lucinda Handwriting and the computer does it for you. Kids will never know what it’s like to wash pencil smear off their tired hands.
2. Pluto as a Planet
My Very Excellent Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas. As a child did you learn an acronym like this to help you remember the names of the planets in our solar system? You might want to think twice before passing on this trick to your kids. Pluto was officially demoted to a dwarf planet in 2006 which means our children will never remember a world with nine planets instead of eight.
3. Reading a Map
If you ever took a road trip as a child, you may have fond memories of sitting in the backseat with a map spread across your knees, tracing the highways, and measuring the distance by the smallest digit of your little finger, which was a perfect match in size for the scale provided on the corner of each page. These days children watch a car-shaped icon navigate a digital road on our GPS system. These fancy gadgets have even put an end to the classic childhood question “Are we there yet?”
4. Using a Card Catalog
As a child when you wanted to find a book you were interested in checking out of the library, you would first have to consult the card catalog and learn the Dewey Decimal System for its location. Today’s kids will never know the “joy” of scanning a row of drawers for the correct letter and then opening it up to reveal hundreds of neatly arranged cards to flip through. Our children need only perform a simple computer search and, in some cases, they may not even have to leave home to acquire their favorite book. They can simply check out a digital copy for instantaneous delivery to their e-reader. No “I couldn’t find it” excuses for them!
5. Triceratops as a Dinosaur
What child of the ’80s doesn’t remember the gang of dinosaurs from the classic cartoon The Land Before Time? If you recall the movie as being centered around the adventures of a brontosaurus and a triceratops your children are likely to correct you. Scientists now believe that the dinosaur formerly identified as a Triceratops is actually a juvenile version of the Torosaurus.
6. Prayer in School
No matter which side of the issue you’re on, the fact is that our children are no longer taught to bow their heads and pray during the school day. Today’s children are growing up in a world that is continually redefining the line between church and state. In a few more years they may be shocked to learn their parents once participated in group prayer before class!
7. Driving a Stickshift
While in the 1950’s half of all automobiles in the U.S. were manual transmission, nowadays more than 90% of the cars on the road are automatic. While the older generation may cling to their “vintage” style, the younger generation is (not) shifting gears. Our children are much more likely to hit the road in an automatic for their first driver’s education course, leaving the art of the stickshift in the dust.
For our generation, writing a research paper meant spending a lot of time copying, by hand, the necessary information from heavy, leatherbound volumes of an encyclopedia. The information was limited, static, and they required regular (and costly) replacement to stay current. These days kids need only power up the computer to instantly access a wealth of up-to-the-minute information on an endless variety of subjects. It certainly renders us less sympathetic when they complain about having to do ‘research’ for their school projects.
9. Corporal Punishment
Even learning a lesson is easier on today’s youth than that of generations past. Remember when talking in class or passing notes earned you more than a letter to your parents or a trip to the principal’s office? Today’s children will never know the fear of facing the teacher’s paddle or the nun’s ruler.
10. Balancing a Checkbook
Before the days of quickly swiping your debit card and checking in on your funds with online banking, there were checks to be written and accounts to be balanced. The age of the internet has almost rendered the balancing of the checkbook completely obsolete. Our children are much more likely to run the numbers in a spreadsheet after checking their accounts online than to pour over a wad of saved receipts with pencil, paper, and a calculator.
11. Taking Photos with Film
Remember taking photos on non-digital cameras? You framed each shot with painstaking care, hoisted your bulky camera and waited for the perfect moment to click knowing there was a finite end to your roll of film (usually 24 shots). And let’s not forget calling “doubles” on your friend’s pics. Only one lucky person would get a copy of a pic they liked. These days kids can snap pictures with reckless abandon using a camera that fits easily into their pocket and have the instant gratification of seeing their photo and sharing it with all 300+ of their friends. Our children will never know the disappointment of realizing, weeks later, when their pictures are finally developed, that their subject’s eyes were closed in half their shots.
12. Mending and Sewing
While many of us, like our parents before us, can alter a hemline or sew on a button, this is a dying skill set for the up and coming generation. Mending and sewing are becoming obsolete as fewer and fewer schools offer home economics courses. Furthermore, retailers providing cheap clothing, disposable after a season, make repairing rips and tears in clothing less appealing to today’s youth. Why bother replacing a button when that top is so last year?
13. Baking From Scratch
Another victim of the decline of home economics is the ability to prepare food from scratch. It’s a task many are choosing to forego in a world filled with frozen dinners, fast food on every corner, and cake mix. I mourn for future generations as the makers of homemade Thanksgiving dinners grow fewer and fewer. Stouffer’s ready made stuffing just cannot compare.
14. Torturous Gym Class Activities
Who doesn’t recall joining in a game of dodgeball or a “state mandated” survivor-style course? It’s very likely that our children will never know the awkwardness of three-legged races or timed push ups. Legislation with emphasis on test scores and a lower budget have caused many schools to reduce the length of time
15. The Great Outdoors
The final thing we enjoyed regularly as children that our kids may not is the simple act of playing outside. As the world we live in becomes increasingly tech-crazed, kids are more likely to play a video game, surf the web, or check out what’s on one the hundreds of channels that cable television now has to offer than to step outside. Still, running through the sprinklers, tree climbing, bike riding, and firefly catching — there is no App for that.
What would you add to the list? Tell me in the comments!